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Quaker Brotherhood

Quaker Brotherhood: Interracial Activism and the American Friends Service Committee, 1917-1950

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 280
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  • Book Info
    Quaker Brotherhood
    Book Description:

    The Religious Society of Friends and its service organization, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), have long been known for their peace and justice activism. The abolitionist work of Friends during the antebellum era has been well documented, and their contemporary anti-war and anti-racism work is familiar to activists around the world. Quaker Brotherhood is the first extensive study of the AFSC's interracial activism in the first half of the twentieth century, filling a major gap in scholarship on the Quakers' race relations work from the AFSC's founding in 1917 to the beginnings of the civil rights movement in the early 1950s._x000B__x000B_Allan W. Austin tracks the evolution of key AFSC projects, such as the Interracial Section and the American Interracial Peace Committee, that demonstrate the tentativeness of the Friends' activism in the 1920s, as well as efforts in the 1930s to make scholarly ideas and activist work more theologically relevant for Friends. Documenting the AFSC's efforts to help European and Japanese American refugees during World War II, Austin shows that by 1950 Quakers in the AFSC had honed a distinctly Friendly approach to interracial relations that combined scholarly understandings of race with their religious views._x000B__x000B_In tracing the transformation of one of the most influential social activist groups in the United States over the first half of the twentieth century, Quaker Brotherhood presents Friends in a thoughtful, thorough, and even-handed manner. Austin portrays the history of the AFSC and race--highlighting the organization's boldness in some aspects and its timidity in others--as an ongoing struggle that provides a foundation for understanding how shared agency might function in an imperfect and often racist world._x000B__x000B_Highlighting the complicated and sometimes controversial connections between Quakers and race during this era, Austin uncovers important aspects of the history of Friends, pacifism, feminism, American religion, immigration, ethnicity, and the early roots of multiculturalism._x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09415-6
    Subjects: Political Science, Religion, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Allan W. Austin
  4. INTRODUCTION The “Friendly Principle of Brotherhood”
    (pp. 1-18)

    Writing twenty years after the founding of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Quaker Rufus Jones recalled the uncertainty with which Friends went to work after the United States entered the Great War in 1917. Comparing the earliest AFSC pioneers to Abraham, who “went out not knowing whither he was going, but purposing in his mind to find a city with enduring foundations, divinely built,” Jones believed that the AFSC had achieved more than anyone had “dreamed [possible] in the sharp crisis of 1917, when the first steps of faith were taken.”¹ Jones was well positioned to comment on the...

  5. 1. “Let’s Do Away with Walls!”: The AFSC’s Interracial Section and Race Work in the United States, 1924–1929
    (pp. 19-48)

    In the fall of 1924, a group of concerned Quakers met in Philadelphia to consider the future of the AFSC. They found the Service Committee at a crossroads as they debated whether to lay down the organization or expand its activities. The outcome of the debate seems to have been a foregone conclusion, despite Chairman Rufus Jones’s assertion in his opening remarks that the committee “should not go on, unless we are sure we have a vital mission to perform…. I do not want to see us go out and hunt for tasks to keep our machinery going.” Jones, however,...

  6. 2. Bridging Race and Peace: The AFSC in Good Times and Bad, 1927–1931
    (pp. 49-80)

    In late 1929, poet and activist Alice Dunbar-Nelson published a poem in a newsletter sponsored by the American Interracial Peace Committee (AIPC), on which she served as executive secretary. Although acknowledging a gloomy present, the poem suggested optimism for a brighter future:

    So it’s hope again, trust again, sing again,

    Step proudly, your face to the skies.

    Though the curtain of midnight enfold you,

    At the dawning the sun will arise.¹

    The poem reflected Dunbar-Nelson’s conflicted mood as she struggled to hold her AFSC-sponsored organization together; beset by hard economic times and pressing challenges, she remained hopeful nonetheless that real...

  7. 3. “Intelligent Leadership in the Cause of Racial Brotherhood”: Quakers, Social Science, and the AFSC’s Interracial Activism in the 1930s
    (pp. 81-111)

    Recalling the earliest days of the AFSC, Rufus Jones observed that he and the organization’s founders, “conscious of a divine leading,” had gone to work “aware, even if only dimly, that we were ‘fellow-laborers with God’ in the rugged furrows of the somewhat brambly fields of the world.”¹ Jones’s remark reinforced the foundational connection that Friends have historically drawn between their faith, inspired by the “divine leading” of the Inner Light, and its practice, the application of such religiously inspired insights to the secular world around them. This link, embodied in Friends’ testimonies—described by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting more...

  8. 4. Refugees from Abroad and at Home: The Hostel Method and Victims of War
    (pp. 112-143)

    In the aftermath of World War II and the sudden and unexpected catastrophes it wrought, Henry Cadbury answered a question about “the philosophy underlying [AFSC] service.” In his response, he argued that the question had the causal relationship backward. “The Quaker service,” Cadbury argued, “tends to precede the philosophy.” In his reflections on the AFSC’s first three decades of work, Cadbury felt that instead of a clearly thought-out plan of action, “what precedes the experience is a sensitive conscience. The noblesse oblige of inner conscientiousness provides the motive, the methods, and, if you like, the pattern of the observable phenomena...

  9. 5. From Race Relations to Community Relations
    (pp. 144-176)

    When AFSC leaders met to discuss an uncertain future as world war transitioned into cold war, they agreed with Executive Secretary Clarence Pickett that the Service Committee remained “dedicated to building the Kingdom of God on earth.” Just how to build it, however, remained unclear. The AFSC’s wartime aid to European and Japanese American refugees had revealed the need for a broader approach to race relations, but staff members faced numerous challenges, both internally and externally. Many Friends still struggled to confront racism. In addition, the coming of the Cold War generated societal anxieties about the lack of progress for...

  10. CONCLUSION Race and Reconciliation at Mid-Century
    (pp. 177-196)

    AFSC leaders often grounded Service Committee activism in a Quaker legacy of racial justice. Mary Hoxie Jones emphasized these historical connections in her 1937 history of the organization, in which a fictional AFSC staff member uses language from George Fox’s journal in describing the AFSC as “an ocean of light and love which flows over the ocean of darkness and death.” Almost two decades later, Ralph Rose cited abolitionist John Woolman in arguing that even though the majority of AFSC workers were no longer Friends, “the methods used in bringing various community groups together on common problems are essentially Quaker....

  11. Notes
    (pp. 197-242)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 243-248)
  13. Index
    (pp. 249-258)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 259-261)