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

Randall Stephens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-585
JournalJournal of American Studies
Volume50
Issue number3
Early online date18 May 2015
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

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