Show Us How You Do It: Marshall Keeble and the Rise of Black Churches of Christ in the United States, 1914-1968

By Edward J. Robinson | Go to book overview

6
“The White Churches Sponsored
All of This Work”
Marshall Keeble and Race Relations in Churches of Christ

The American Church of Christ is Jim Crowed from top to bottom. No
other institution in America is built so thoroughly or more absolutely on
the color line.

—W. E. B. Du Bois, 1929

In 1931 Marshall Keeble enjoyed perhaps his greatest year as an evangelist, baptizing over one thousand black southerners. His preaching also converted many whites, all of whom went to the white churches and were baptized by white colleagues and subsequently attended white congregations. Keeble quickly attributed his successful preaching tours to the beneficence of white believers also: “The white churches sponsored all of this work.” Keeble's comment reveals a salient aspect of his evangelistic system, as white Christians made it possible for him to preach throughout the South. This is not to say, however, that blacks in Churches of Christ neglected the support of their own preachers and churches, rather in the racist system of the South blacks remained on the lowest rung of the economy's ladder, lacking in disposable income. And in the first half of the twentieth century, most black evangelists served fledgling congregations newly born into the Restoration Movement; thus, they understood the necessity of relying on their white counterparts for financial support. Samuel Robert Cassius, a ministerial colleague of Keeble's, spoke frankly in 1922: “I have not gone to the white churches because I liked to preach to white folks. I went to them to get aid that I might go to my own race. There was nowhere else to go.”1 Marshall Keeble understood this same reality.

Keeble's preaching career reveals three important ramifications of his distinctive circumstances. First, white benefactors in Churches of Christ regularly contributed to African American evangelists and their churches.

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