Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview
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§13 Mary McLeod Bethune

Mary McLeod Bethune’s biography appears in the introduction to her speech of June 11, 1954. In the following speech, Spiritual Rearmament, given less than two months before her death, an existential Bethune proves the importance of appealing to those who seem, in retrospect, under-addressed within the civil rights movement—women. This is a vital call to action that acknowledges women as able and necessary to the cause of desegregation, claiming the only path towards stable future generations to come requires proper use of the God-given talents of women as a collective force. Specifically she names three tasks: education (soul revival sans the tempting lure of materialism); looking to God so he may provide a prudential purpose, hence provoking action and leadership in the community; and finally living acceptingly and harmoniously with all people. She appeals to both sexes, however, when she claims the solution to the inclusive, universal want of purpose within identity can be found only through heavenly means. Her consistent, driving confidence in their impending success through God’s able-bodied masses uniquely empowers this speech. Bethune’s is a quintessentially American confidence as she excoriates “an outstanding churchman” for urging the preservation of “racial heritage.” Bethune thunders: “What racial heritage do we have other than that which belongs to every American? For we are Americans.”


Spiritual Rearmament

Narcissus Literary Club, Dothan, Alabama
March 20,1995

-96-

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