Churches and Social Action

October 14, 1963

Report Outline
Church Support of Civil Rights Crusade
Action on Great Issues in Nation's Life
Race Issues as Question of Conscience

Church Support of Civil Rights Crusade

Church support for the cause of racial equality took a new and sharply militant turn last summer when white clergymen of the three principal religious faiths joined protest marchers, carried placards, and risked arrest to register their commitment to the techniques as well as the goals of civil rights demonstrators. The clergymen's actions were backed by a host of new resolutions and exhortations from major church bodies calling on their communicants to take direct action as a religious duty to help the Negro in his crusade for equal rights.

The mass demonstrations for racial equality, which began nearly four years ago with the first lunch counter sit-in at Greensboro, N. C., have had a markedly religious character from the beginning. Leadership of the movement has been in large part ministerial, its techniques of passive resistance are grounded in Christian principles, and the demonstrations have been marked with prayer, hymn singing and church rallies. But until recently the religious element had been almost solely the contribution of Negro churches and Negro churchmen.

Activity of White Clergymen in Demonstrations

With the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Aug. 28, it became evident to all that white church leaders had joined the crusade. Major church agencies helped plan the march; white clergymen urged members of their congregations to join or support the march; white churches helped provide overnight quarters for marchers away from their homes. White clergymen led groups of co-religionists who helped swell the total number of marchers to 200,000. Some carried placards identifying their church affiliations and proclaiming “Brotherhood of Man under God.”

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Civil Rights Movement
Civil Rights: African Americans
Religion and Politics
Religious Movements