ReligionThe White Church & Civil Rights – The Soul of America

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The Soul of America: Revisiting 1962

The White Church & Civil Rights

The White church and its silence in the 60s

Fifty-eight years before the Asatru Folk Assembly—in response to the silence of white churches on the Negro’s fight against racial inequality and segregation—Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson, President Emeritus of Howard University in the February 1, 1962 issue of JET magazine, proclaimed: “Any church that supports segregation is a blasphemy against God and is already a walking body of death.” His voice echoed throughout the country by like-minded religious leaders, politicians, activists, athletes, and children who voiced similar discontent as noted within these 1962 JET magazine storylines of the day:

THE REV. ALCWYN L. ROBERTS of New York, quoting an unidentified Negro educator on race relations

One conspicuously absent force in all our current strides toward freedom is the organized white church.” — JET, March 1, 1962

ATTORNEY GENERAL ROBERT F. KENNEDY, chiding the nation’s clergy for failing to come forward in the racial discrimination fight

“It is difficult to understand how a preacher can get up on Sunday and talk about love of God and the ‘Ten Commandments,’ and then not speak up on civil rights.” — JET, May 31, 1962

The White church’s silence today

In the wake of world-wide condemnation and protests for the killing of unarmed Black Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery; 2020 revealed the same walls-of-silence, from white churches, that Dr. Mordecai W. Johnson spoke of during the years of the Civil Rights sit-ins, marches, and freedom rides.

Walls-of-silence noted by Rickey Smiley, radio host of the “Rickey Smiley Morning Show,” who asked the Rev. William Barber (President and Senior Lecturer at Repairers of the Breach and co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign), why the silence: “Bishop Barber, I have to ask you this—all this stuff that’s going on—and, ugh, being a prominent man of the cloth. [Has] any white Evangelicals . . . reached out to you and said, ‘Bishop, I understand what y’all are going through, what can I do to help?’ Or are they just being silent?”

They are so loud on what God says so little about, and so quiet on what God says so much about. — Rev. William Barber

Read the full article within The Soul of America: Revisiting 1962 issue where C2Change compares the year 1962 to 2020 in its latest digital magazine at


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