Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement

Article excerpt

From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement. By David P. Cline. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2016. Pp. xx, 276. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4696-3043-4; cloth, $85.00, ISBN 978-1-4696-3042-7.)

In From Reconciliation to Revolution: The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement, David P. Cline chronicles a little-known cohort of theological students who aimed to promote racial understanding and justice within American Protestantism. The Student Interracial Ministry (SIM) traced its shared origins with the better-known Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to the 1960 Easter weekend conference at Shaw University. Theological students at the Shaw conference created SIM with goals similar to SNCC's, except that SIM intended to work in the church. Like SNCC, SIM changed over its eight-year existence. Its field of endeavor expanded beyond its original confines, and its members often worked in key centers of civil rights movement activity and embraced changing movement philosophies.

SIM grew from its initial cohort of seven students--four of whom were white and three black, six men and one woman--into a ministry that placed scores of students for summer, semester, or full-year internships in interracial ministry settings. Operating mostly from Union Theological Seminary in New York, SIM interns developed projects in locations as far apart as Minneapolis and southwest Georgia. Student interns lived in interracial settings, "created pastoral exchanges," ran urban ministries, staffed youth programs, and joined forces with existing civil rights organizations (p. xiii). They endured arrest, received little pay, and lived in difficult situations, but they often asked for more work, sometimes returning to positions for a third or fourth time.

A chapter on SIM's work in southwest Georgia is especially intriguing. Most readers versed in civil rights history will recognize Charles Sherrod from his work organizing Albany's black community in 1961 and 1962. Indeed, traditional narratives suggest Martin Luther King Jr. famously sabotaged the Albany movement in July 1962, humiliating himself and leaving the local movement demoralized and stalled. …

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