Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Episcopalians & Race: Civil War to Civil Rights

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Episcopalians & Race: Civil War to Civil Rights

Article excerpt

GARDINER H. SHATTUCK, JR. Episcopalians & Race: Civil War to Civil Rights. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2000. Pp. xiii + 298, illustrations, index. $32.50.

Gardiner H. Shattuck, Jr. seems to have one goal for this historical study. This is to move beyond the now almost commonplace politically correct and dispassionate discussions of race and racism and engage a more rigorous and straightforward analysis of how and why these twin issues remain so prominent in sacred tabernacles, in this case, the Episcopal Church. Starting with the Civil War years and moving to the civil rights years of the 1960s, Shattuck weaves a well-documented and riveting story of how racism in Episcopalianism-despite having been stripped of some of its pre-1960s overt vicious expressions-still persists with great energy and pervasiveness today. The author pins us to our seats with concrete examples of how although racial bigotry in present day Episcopalianism is no longer marked by the overt viciousness of the past, racism continues to hold sway in this denomination. Among the examples Shattuck cites to defend his position is the decision of his church not to move its 1991 General Convention away from Phoenix, Arizona, when a slim majority of voters in that state defeated a "referendum that would have created a holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."

Daring to mix his scholarly historical analysis with his own personal experiences as a member of the Episcopal Church, Shattuck draws the conclusion that there is only one reason why his denomination made that decision. Many Episcopalians failed to understand and hence transcend their past racial history. Shattuck rightly points out that history had been marked by a combination of concrete bigoted acts and ambivalence. While present day Episcopalianism-motivated by the civil rights struggles of the 1960s-has been able to free itself of the old outright bigoted attitudes, Shattuck insists that racism still exists because Episcopalians have failed to take a clear and firm stand against it. …

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