Reverend A. Powell Davies’s biography appears in the introduction to his May 23, 1954 sermon in Washington, D.C. In the sermon below, just four days before his untimely death, Reverend Davies delivers a blistering attack on the nation, its supposed leaders, and segregation’s adherents. As with many of his sermons, Powell keeps one eye on the community and one eye on the world. Thus is Little Rock rendered a morality tale in the larger Cold War battle for the world’s allegiances. A hypocritical nation, Davies warns, one that betrays its own sacred principles, “could become a contribution to our final tragedy—our isolation and defeat, perhaps even our annihilation in a world that is marshaled against us.”
He offers scathing critique for perhaps the two men most at fault for the Little Rock crisis, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus and President Dwight Eisenhower. Employing both mens’ facial comportment, Davies sees what others might not: Faubus’s clever cunning and Eisenhower’s gullibility. Perhaps the most entertaining part of Davies’s message is his reductio ad absurdum of a prevailing southern reluctance to accept legal changes “until people are ready for it in their hearts.” From the Mormon polygamist and the pork-eating cannibal to the larcenist, Davies reaches but one conclusion: “we must advance in race relations in spite of race prejudice.” And, until the racists finally “get that poison out of their hearts,” “communist cynicism” will continue “to defeat Western hypocrisy.”
All Souls Church, Washington, D.C.
September 22, 1957
The capital city of Arkansas is not large. It has a population of about 110,000, a little less than a quarter of which is Negro. It has about 20,000 children in its schools, of which in all there are 33. The state of Arkansas itself is not by usual measurements among the more important in the federal union. Its population is expected to decline in the near future while the population of most states swiftly rises. Yet Arkansas has been in many
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Publication information: Book title: Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965. Contributors: Davis W. Houck - Editor, David E. Dixon - Editor. Publisher: Baylor University Press. Place of publication: Waco, TX. Publication year: 2006. Page number: 277.
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