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

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview
Save to active project

§43 Chester Bowles

Chester Bowles was born in Springfield, Massachusetts on April 5, 1901. He received his B.S. from Yale University in 1924. After a successful career in advertising, he turned to public service. He first served as general manager of the massive Office of Price Administration beginning in 1943. He later served as governor of Connecticut (1948 to 1950), U.S. ambassador to India (1951–1953 and 1963– 1969), and as a congressman (1959–1960). In addition to these prominent positions, he also played important roles at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (1946), and at the United Nations (1947– 1951). Bowles also served as an advisor to Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy. A lifelong Unitarian, Bowles was a vocal advocate for racial reconciliation and international accord. While he served as ambassador to India, for example, Bowles rode his bicycle to work and enrolled his children in public schools. He died on May 25, 1986 at the age of 85. His papers are housed at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

The following speech to the Health and Welfare Council in 1959 uses numerous Christian images and texts woven into other persuasive appeals to construct a powerful interpretation of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1954 mandate that boards of education end racial segregation with “all deliberate speed.”

The Health and Welfare Council was one of two prominent umbrella organizations to guide resources among non-profit agencies in the African American community in Washington, D.C. The intended audience is a group of philanthropists, such as Dr. Euphemia Lofton Haynes, a key figure in ending segregation in the District of Columbia.

Early in the speech, Bowles argues that Christian civilization, with its 2000 year history, has greater depth than the evolving social contract of the U.S. Constitution, which was not even 200 years old at the time. This greater depth, he argues, potentially gives firmer moral ground to new laws that are shocking to many, if long overdue. He believes that the ethical responsibility of Christians is to convince others of their deeper moral purpose, calling for conciliation to the extent possible within the framework of the Constitution. Moderates, he argues, have access to the moral authority of Christian civilization. Christians from Thomistic traditions have long embraced the Aristotelian mean. God spoke through Isaiah, inviting the unjust to “reason together” in order to reconcile their original sins. Bowles then turns to Jefferson’s account of a creator who endows all humans with inalienable rights. Whether those thoughts are Christian or deist is a matter our nation has not resolved, and Bowles attempts to build bridges among those struggling for Jefferson’s religious legacy.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Rhetoric, Religion and the Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1965
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 999

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?