Lift Up Your Voice like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973

Lift Up Your Voice like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973

Lift Up Your Voice like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973

Lift Up Your Voice like a Trumpet: White Clergy and the Civil Rights and Antiwar Movements, 1954-1973

Synopsis

When the Supreme Court declared in 1954 that segregated public schools were unconstitutional, the highest echelons of Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish religious organizations enthusiastically supported the ruling; and black civil rights workers expected and actively sought the cooperation of their white religious cohorts. Many white southern clergy, however, were outspoken in their defense of segregation, and even those who supported integration were wary of risking their positions by urging parishioners to act on their avowed religious beliefs in a common humanity. Those who did so found themselves abandoned by friends, attacked by white supremacists, and often driven from their communities.

Michael Friedland here offers a collective biography of several southern and nationally known white religious leaders who did step forward to join the major social protest movements of the mid-twentieth century, lending their support first to the civil rights movement and later to protests over American involvement in Vietnam. Profiling such activists as William Sloane Coffin Jr., Daniel and Philip Berrigan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Eugene Carson Blake, Robert McAfee Brown, and Will D. Campbell, he reveals the passions and commitment behind their involvement in these protests and places their actions in the context of a burgeoning ecumenical movement.

Excerpt

Thus says the lord to you: "Do not fear or be dismayed at this great multitude; for the battle is not yours but God's."

2 chronicles 20:15

The Call to Battle
The Churches.and Synagogues Enter the Civil Rights Struggle, 1963

Until 1963, most of the clergy's involvement in the civil rights movement had been the work of individuals or small groups who had responded to calls for support from major civil rights organizations; the churches, as organizations, had largely been content to issue proclamations and resolutions. The televised violence inflicted on civil rights workers in Birmingham would awaken liberal clergy nationwide to the fact that such declarations, however wellmeaning, were largely ineffectual. Organization and action on the part of the clergy were needed to combat discrimination on three fronts: in the southern communities where SNCC and SCLC were sponsoring demonstrations; in Washington, D.C., to push for stronger federal civil rights legislation; and in the communities of the North and Midwest, where white liberal clergy urged their representatives and senators to support such legislation. Such tasks demanded coordination, and new religious organizations were formed specifi-

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