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

By Michael B. Friedland | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteous . . . JEREMIAH 22:3

On the afternoon of April 9, 1865, Union cavalry entered Selma, Alabama, destroyed the town's foundries, and marched on to Montgomery, forcing its citizens to surrender. One hundred years later, a combined force of 3,200 black and white nonviolent marchers led by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee ( SNCC) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) followed the same route to demand voting rights for blacks. The atmosphere of the second march could not have been more distinct from that of its predecessor. "It was like a Fourth of July picnic and a pilgrimage, a protest and an exultation," wrote Washington Post reporter Paul Good. "It was like nothing Selma had ever seen before or dreamed of." 1

Or the rest of the nation, for that matter. It was a pilgrimage, and if its goals fell short of a strictly spiritual journey, the presence of hundreds of white Jewish, Protestant, and Catholic clergy and nuns belied that fact. Feeling the need to witness to and show repentance over the sins of racial discrimination, their participation in the march was the most dramatic sign up to that time of the comparatively recent church involvement in the civil rights movement.

Calls for the white churches to act more decisively in the racial struggle had been mounting since the Supreme Court ordered school desegregation in 1954. For the most part, the initial impetus for clerical action on behalf of civil rights in the years immediately following the Brown v. Board of Education decision came from a handful of southern white clergy, yet the pressures placed on them by parishioners hostile to racial equality quickly led to a silencing of all but the bravest of them. When the civil rights movement turned to tactics such as sit-ins and freedom rides in the early 1960s, groups of sympathetic, nonsouthern, white clergymen took part with effective results: as several were nationally known, their arrests and trials focused widespread attention on the demonstrations and their goals.

Yet the shift from moral suasion to direct action also posed a problem to the

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 3
  • Chapter One 18
  • Chapter Two 49
  • Chapter Three 70
  • Chpter Four 93
  • Chapter Five 113
  • Chapter Six 140
  • Chapter Seven 164
  • Chapter Eight 189
  • Chapter Nine 213
  • Epilogue 237
  • Notes 253
  • I. Manuscript Collections 287
  • Index 305
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