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Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement

Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement

By Elaine Allen Lechtreck
Hardcover : 9781496817525, 384 pages, 22 b&w illustrations, 1 table, May 2018
Paperback : 9781496817532, 384 pages, 22 b&w illustrations, 1 table, May 2018

A study of white ministers who risked their pulpits and lives to challenge southern society


In 1963, the Sunday after four black girls were killed by a bomb in a Birmingham church, George William Floyd, a Church of Christ minister, preached a sermon based on the Golden Rule. He pronounced that Jesus Christ was asking Christians to view the bombing from the perspective of their black neighbors and asserted, "We don't realize it yet, but because Martin Luther King Jr. is preaching nonviolence, which is Jesus's way, someday Martin Luther King Jr. will be seen as the best friend the white man in the South has ever had. " During the sermon, members of the congregation yelled, "You devil, you!" and, immediately, Floyd was dismissed. Although not every anti-segregation white minister was as outspoken as Pastor Floyd, many signed petitions, organized interracial groups, or preached gently from a gospel of love and justice. Those who spoke and acted outright on behalf of the civil rights movement were harassed, beaten, and even jailed.

Based on interviews and personal memoirs, Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement traces the efforts of these clergymen who--deeply moved by the struggle of African Americans--looked for ways to reconcile the history of discrimination and slavery with Christian principles and to help their black neighbors. While many understand the role political leaders on national stages played in challenging the status quo of the South, this book reveals the significant contribution of these ministers in breaking down segregation through preaching a message of love.


"The breadth of this study is one of the book’s strong features. The number of church leaders introduced in this volume is significant…For students of the history of Christianity in the U. S. and for church members alike, Lechtreck’s offering is, nonetheless, a valuable resource. "

- Gary Agee, Anderson University, Journal of Southern Religion, Volume 22 (2020)

"Lechtreck’s primary goal was simply to put forward a different picture of white southerners and highlight the social forces that constrained their actions. Her compelling narrative, one from which students, scholars, and the general public interested in religious history will all learn, certainly succeeds in that regard. "

- Nathan Saunders, University of North Carolina Wilmington, The North Carolina Historical Review

"Southern White Ministers and the Civil Rights Movement is an important contribution in the history of American religion and civil rights. "

- Anindya Sekhar Purakayastha, Kazi Nazrul University, The Journal of African American History