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Building the Beloved Community

Building the Beloved Community: Philadelphia’s Interracial Civil Rights Organizations and Race Relations, 1930–1970

Stanley Keith Arnold
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 176
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  • Book Info
    Building the Beloved Community
    Book Description:

    Inspired by Quakerism, Progressivism, the Social Gospel movement, and the theories of scholars such as W. E. B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, Franz Boas, and Ruth Benedict, a determined group of Philadelphia activists sought to transform race relations. This book concentrates on these organizations: Fellowship House, the Philadelphia Housing Association, and the Fellowship Commission. While they initially focused on community-level relations, these activists became increasingly involved in building coalitions for the passage of civil rights legislation on the local, state, and national level. This historical account examines their efforts in three distinct, yet closely related areas, education, housing, and labor.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of this movement was its utilization of education as a weapon in the struggle against racism. Martin Luther King credited Fellowship House with introducing him to the passive resistance principle ofsatygrahathrough a Sunday afternoon forum. Philadelphia's activists influenced the southern civil rights movement through ideas and tactics. Borrowing from Philadelphia, similar organizations would rise in cities from Kansas City to Knoxville. Their impact would have long lasting implications; the methods they pioneered would help shape contemporary multicultural education programs.

    Building the Beloved Communityplaces this innovative northern civil rights struggle into a broader historical context. Through interviews, photographs, and rarely utilized primary sources, the author critically evaluates the contributions and shortcomings of this innovative approach to race relations.

    eISBN: 978-1-62674-032-7
    Subjects: Sociology, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    IN HIS BOOKSTRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM,MARTIN LUTHER KING described his introduction to the theories of Mohandas Gandhi at a lecture hosted by Fellowship House, a Philadelphia-based interracial civil rights organization. In the postwar era, Fellowship House formed the core of a dynamic local movement that influenced the development of a national network of locally based interracial civil rights organizations, helped to redefine race relations in the Philadelphia area, and contributed to the growth of the modern civil rights movement. These organizations, which were founded decades before the modern civil rights movement, not only shaped the struggle but also laid...

  6. CHAPTER 1 By the Waters of Babylon The Origins of the Interracial Movement
    (pp. 8-25)

    THE CITY OF BROTHERLY LOVE HAS NOT ALWAYS LIVED UP TO ITS NAME. Its past has witnessed brutal racial, religious, and class conflicts. Yet its history also includes those who challenged accepted prejudices and sought to bridge these chasms of ignorance and hatred. This chapter examines the origins and early development of this activist spirit in Philadelphia. The interracial civil rights movement that emerged in the 1930s was influenced by Quakerism, the Social Gospel movement, Progressivism, and new academic trends in the study of race. How did these activists weave disparate strands of thought and action into a movement?


  7. CHAPTER 2 So That All Might Learn Education and the Interracial Civil Rights Movement, 1931–1946
    (pp. 26-44)

    FRANK SINATRA WAS PERHAPS THE MOST POPULAR MAN IN AMERICA when he walked into Fellowship House on April 4, 1945. At the behest of his manager who was acquainted with one of Fellowship’s board members, the celebrated crooner spoke to over 300 students about racial tolerance, At the time, Sinatra’s involvement in civil rights was growing. His Philadelphia visit was part of a speaking tour focusing on social issues. As he departed, the singer donated $600 to Fellowship House to repair a decrepit cornice.¹ The appearance of Sinatra and his small yet important symbolic gift increased the movement’s profile. For...

  8. CHAPTER 3 Education for Democracy The Interracial Civil Rights Movement and Intercultural and Desegregated Education, 1947–1970
    (pp. 45-67)

    IN 1945 THE JULIUS ROSENWALD FUND REPORTED THE EXISTENCE OF three hundred racial and ethnic relations organizations in the United States. Three years later, the fund listed over one thousand such groups.¹ In the forefront of this growing “war against bigotry” in Philadelphia were such interracial organizations as Fellowship House and the Fellowship Commission. These activists had created a wide array of educational programs ranging from radio drama to racial tolerance workshops for children. But by the late 1940s Philadelphia’s interracial civil rights community had started to question its strategies. The intercultural programs had won wide acclaim and had contributed...

  9. CHAPTER 4 A House of Many Mansions Race, Housing, and the Interracial Civil Rights Community, 1930–1946
    (pp. 68-85)

    THE 2010 CENSUS REPORTED THAT PHILADELPHIA’S RESIDENTIAL SEGRE-gation rate was one of the highest among the nation’s largest cities.¹ Although housing discrimination has been a facet of life in the “City of Homes” for decades, the patterns of spatial segregation underwent significant changes in the first fifty years of the twentieth century. This chapter traces the formation of racial housing patterns in Philadelphia and the growing involvement of interracial civil rights organizations in the struggle for integrated housing.

    In the late nineteenth century, many black Philadelphians occupied dwellings behind the townhouses of their white employers. This housing pattern had its...

  10. CHAPTER 5 The House We Live In Race and Housing in the Postwar World, 1946–1970
    (pp. 86-110)

    IN LATE 1947 HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PHILADELPHIANS FLOCKED to view the “Better Philadelphia Exhibition” at Gimbels department store at Eighth and Market Streets. Designed by renowned architect and Housing Association board member Oscar Stonorov, the exhibit portrayed the end of urban blight. In the exhibit, giant hands removed slum areas and replaced them with new residential, recreational, and commercial developments. Ironically, half of the exhibit’s funding came from the city’s faltering Republican machine, which had done little to stem urban blight. The Republicans hoped the exhibit and its implied policies would help their mayoral candidate, Bernard Samuels, retain City...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Labor in the Vineyard The Interracial Civil Rights Movement and the Struggle for Equality in Employment
    (pp. 111-132)

    IN THE EARLY NINETEENTH CENTURY PHILADELPHIA BOASTED ONE OF the wealthiest free black communities in the country. Blacks held real estate valued at $327,000 and were represented in over 130 skilled occupations. By the Civil War, however, black footholds in skilled jobs began to decline. Economic competition contributed to a rise in racial tension as blacks and whites, especially immigrants, fought for jobs in an increasingly tight labor market. Antebellum Philadelphia witnessed eight major race riots. Competition over scarce jobs contributed to the endemic pattern of racial violence in the City of Brotherly Love.¹ This final chapter examines the interracial...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. Epilogue Every Man ’neath His Vine and Fig Tree Shall Live in Peace and Unafraid
    (pp. 133-136)

    IT IS DIFFICULT TO PINPOINT WHEN A MOVEMENT ENDS. RATHER, THE late 1960s and early 1970s represent a watershed for the movement. While the focus on race remained important, Philadelphia’s activists expanded into new and unfamiliar areas.

    Fellowship House, the anchor of the movement, underwent sweeping changes in the late 1960s. Black youth whose parents had participated in Arrow programs challenged the tactics and goals of Fellowship House. For an increasing number of African Americans, interracial activists living in a poor and increasingly volatile black community represented a naive anachronism. Their words turned to deeds when Little Fellowship House was...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 137-160)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 161-170)
  16. Index
    (pp. 171-178)