Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement

Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement

SAMUEL G. LONDON
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2tvf1c
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  • Book Info
    Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement
    Book Description:

    Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movementis the first in-depth study of the denomination's participation in civil rights politics. It considers the extent to which the denomination's theology influenced how its members responded. This book explores why a brave few Adventists became social and political activists, and why a majority of the faithful eschewed the movement.

    Samuel G. London, Jr., provides a clear, yet critical understanding of the history and theology of the Seventh-day Adventist Church while highlighting the contributions of its members to political reform. Community awareness, the example of early Adventist pioneers, liberationist interpretations of the Bible, as well as various intellectual and theological justifications motivated the civil rights activities of some Adventists. For those who participated in the civil rights movement, these factors superseded the conservative ideology and theology that came to dominate the church after the passing of its founders. Covering the end of the 1800s through the 1970s, the book discusses how Christian fundamentalism, the curse of Ham, the philosophy of Booker T. Washington, pragmatism, the aversion to ecumenism and the Social Gospel, belief in the separation of church and state, and American individualism converged to impact Adventist sociopolitical thought.

    eISBN: 978-1-60473-285-6
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. IX-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    This study provides the first in-depth examination of Seventh-day Adventist participation in civil rights politics. It considers the extent to which the denomination’s theology influenced the way its members responded to sociopolitical activism in the United States. Irony is not lost on the fact that most Adventists did not participate in the civil rights movement. Consequently, this book explores why some Adventists became involved in sociopolitical issues, while others did not. In doing so, the present volume examines the mixed forces that motivated Adventist activists to participate in civil rights politics. These determinants include community awareness or community-oriented consciousness; the...

  5. Part I. The Seventh-day Adventists: Origins and Development of Nonparticipatory Politics

    • 1. Forays into Social Activism: A Comparative Analysis
      (pp. 11-65)

      In this chapter I examine the origin of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, as well as the effort of some members, at the turn of the century, to improve the socioeconomic status of black Southerners. I also show how violence aimed at African Americans prompted Ellen White, one of the main founders of the church, to adopt a moderate approach to social activism in the South. Moreover, I will debunk the false assertion that White held blatantly racist views. To this day, White’s detractors use her statements, out of their proper historical context, to further their argument that she was a...

    • 2. Theology, Politics, and the Retreat from Social Activism
      (pp. 66-90)

      A quote from Ellen G. White, one of the main co-founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, displays the progressive roots of early Adventism: “When the Holy Spirit moves, all prejudice will be melted away and we will approach God as one brotherhood…. The bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness will shine into the chambers of the mind and heart. In our worship of God there will be no distinction between rich and poor, white and black. All prejudice will be melted away. When we approach God, it will be as one brotherhood.”¹ During the 1950s and 1960s, some white...

  6. Part II. The Emergence of Afro-Adventist Activism

    • 3. Afro-Adventist Activism in the 1930s and 1940s
      (pp. 93-106)

      As stated in the previous chapter, community awareness, in conjunction with theological justification, liberationist interpretations of the Bible, and the example of the denomination’s founders and pioneers motivated the civil rights activism of some black Adventists. This chapter highlights the contribution of those Adventists, specifically Matthew Strachan and Irene Morgan, to sociopolitical reform in the 1930s and 1940s, and demonstrates how events in the interwar years (that is, between 1919 and 1939) increased community awareness among African Americans. In discussing how Strachan’s work with the Negro Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Southern Missionary Society enhanced his sociopolitical...

    • 4. Lay Activism
      (pp. 107-120)

      As stated in the previous chapter, the sociopolitical activism of the 1940s gave rise to the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Accordingly, this chapter examines the contributions of Seventh-day Adventist laypersons to the civil rights movement of the mid-twentieth century. Specifically, it discusses the activities of Alfonzo Greene, Terrance Roberts, and Frank Hale in combating social injustice both within their denomination and in mainstream, secular society. Based on information gathered from interviews and memoirs, this chapter presents the argument that community-oriented consciousness, theological justifications, liberationist interpretations of the Bible, and the example of Adventist founders and pioneers...

    • 5. Ministerial Activism in the South Central Conference
      (pp. 121-135)

      The South Central Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is a regional conference made up of predominately black churches in Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky, and the portion of Florida located west of the Apalachicola River. Unlike the previous chapter, which focused on the activism of laypersons, this one evaluates the civil rights activities of three ministers from the South Central Conference—Charles Dudley, Charles Joseph, and Earl Moore—and documents the fierce opposition they encountered from the Seventh-day Adventist Church because of their activism. Like the previous chapter, this one demonstrates that community awareness, liberationist interpretations of the Bible, as well as...

    • 6. Ministerial Activism in the South Atlantic and General Conferences
      (pp. 136-149)

      The South Atlantic Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is a regional conference made up of predominately black churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. At one time it also included Florida. This chapter examines the civil rights activities of two ministers from the South Atlantic Conference, Warren S. Banfield Jr. and Franklin Hill II, as well as those of Edward Earl Cleveland (popularly known as E. E. Cleveland), a black Adventist evangelist and administrator with the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It documents the fierce opposition their activism encountered from certain elements within the church. Like the previous chapter, this...

  7. Conclusion
    (pp. 150-156)

    As shown in this study, a number of black Seventh-day Adventists made significant contributions to the civil rights movement. The principal motivators behind their sociopolitical activism included community awareness (also known as community-oriented consciousness); the example of Adventist founders and pioneers; liberationist interpretations of the Bible; as well as intellectual and theological justifications. Nevertheless, the fact is that most Adventists, regardless of ethnicity, refused to participate in civil rights politics. The denomination’s nonparticipatory stance on politics came from certain factors within Adventism that became more prominent with the passing of its founders and pioneers. These include premillennialism, the belief that...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 157-178)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 179-186)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 187-194)