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

By Davis W. Houck; David E. Dixon | Go to book overview
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§53 Reverend Edler Garnet Hawkins

Born in 1908 to Albert and Anna Hawkins, Edler Garnet Hawkins came of age in the Bronx. Under the tutelage of William Lloyd Imes, Hawkins attended Union Seminary in New York City. Ordained a Presbyterian minister, Hawkins was called to St. Augustine Presbyterian Church on the border of Harlem and the Bronx; he would pastor this church for nearly 30 years, transforming it in the process into a large, multicultural and activist body. In 1958 Hawkins was elected moderator of the New York presbytery; four years later he was elected the first black moderator by the general assembly of the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). After resigning his pastorate at St. Augustine in 1970, Hawkins taught homiletics and church administration at Princeton Seminary. He was the first African American on the Seminary’s faculty. Outside of the Presbyterian church, Hawkins was elected to the central committee of the World Council of Churches in 1974 and actively promoted its Programme to Combat Racism. Hawkins died in 1977. His papers are housed at the Robert Woodruff Library Atlanta University Center in Atlanta, Georgia.

Prima facie, this is not a sermon about race; yet in it we find exhortation by indirection: for the church to witness to the world about civil rights will require an extraordinary faith—the faith typified by the early church. To be ordinary in the extraordinary 1960s is to invite the wrath of God and to mingle easily with the prevailing culture. Hawkins calls upon his parishioners to get its “verticals straight”; if so, the “horizontals” will follow. The message could not have been missed from

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