"It has to come from the hearts of the people": Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Race, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act

Stephens, Randall (2016) "It has to come from the hearts of the people": Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Race, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Journal of American Studies, 50 (3). pp. 559-585. ISSN 0021-8758

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0021875815000687


In recent years historians and scholars of religious studies have chronicled and debated the critical role that black and white liberal Protestants, Catholics, and Jews played in the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s. At every stage of the movement, mainline and traditional black churches proved vital. Less is known about the actions and reactions of conservative or moderate white believers. The churches that these fundamentalists and evangelicals belonged to would grow tremendously in the coming decades, eventually claiming roughly 26 percent of the American population. From the 1960s forward, conservative Protestants would also become key political players, helping to decide national elections. Their responses to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, which intended to end discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin, and the heated debates that led up to the law reveal much about how conservative Christians related to the state and to a changing society. Responses to the bill ranged from resigned acceptance to racist denunciation. But believers were united in their antistatism and in their opposition to political and theological liberalism. This article examines how evangelicals and fundamentalists engaged in politics and understood race and racism in personal terms. It also analyzes the religious dimensions of modern American conservatism.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: V100 History by period
V200 History by area
V300 History by topic
V600 Theology and Religious studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Humanities
Depositing User: Randall Stephens
Date Deposited: 13 Jul 2015 09:00
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2019 19:25
URI: http://nrl.northumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/23327

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