Apartheid and Racism
Thank God I am black. White people
will have a lot to answer for at the last judgement.
Desmond Tutu (1931- ), Archbishop
of Cape Town, South Africa
The idea that racial or ethnic groups should be persecuted
is popular in the Bible. God himself was keen on exterminating
whole peoples, such as the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15:3). Believing
that they had replaced the Jews as God's chosen people, Christians
deduced that they were free to persecute and extirpate non-Christian
peoples, and even that they were under a moral obligation to
For traditional Christians, black skin
was associated with evil. The devil, his demons and sub-Saharan
Africans all owed their black skin to having been cursed
When the Jews and Moors were expelled from Spain towards the
end of the fifteenth century, racial legislation was passed
to "purify" the blood of the upper classes. Anyone
with Jewish or Moorish blood was suspect and penalised. Under
statutes of limpieza de sangre, the descendants of
Jews and Moors, even though they were Christians, were debarred
from universities, religious orders, military orders and public
office. In theory anyone who had any Jewish or Moorish ancestor,
however remote, was of "impure blood" and suffered
accordingly. Such people were second class citizens. Moreover
they were second class citizens for racial, not religious, reasons.
There was no question about it: according to the rules even
the most devout Christian should be punished for having even
a single distant ancestor of the wrong race.
The earliest known case judging Limpieza de Sangre comes from
the Church of Cordoba. It explained the procedure to judge the
purity of blood of a candidate as follows:
Kneeling, with his right hand placed over the image of a
crucifix on a Bible, the candidate confirmed not being of
either Jewish or Moorish extraction. Then the candidate provided
the names of the parents and grandparents, as well as places
of birth. Two delegates of the council, church or other public
place would then research the information to make sure it
was truthful. If the investigation had to be carried out of
Cordoba, a person, not necessarily a member of the council,
would be appointed to examine the witnesses appointed by the
candidate. This researcher would receive a sum per diem according
to the rank of the person, the distance traveled and the time
spent. Having collected all the reports, the secretary or
the notary must read them all to the council and a vote would
decide whether the candidate was approved. A simple majority
was sufficient, after which the candidate had to promise to
obey all the laws and customs of the Church.
Sicroff, Albert A.. Los estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre.
This idea was endorsed and promoted by the Roman Catholic Church.
Limpieza de sangre rules were set out and enforced
by priests and bishops, monks and abbots. In 1496, Pope Alexander
VI approved a purity statute for the Hieronymite Order, an enclosed
religious Order. Other statutes regulated other religious Orders,
the priesthood, Christian guilds, schools, and military and
Tests of limpieza de sangre began to lose their utility
by the 19th century, but in certain religious contexts they
continued. An edict of 8 March 1804 by King Ferdinand VII resolved
that no knight of the Military Orders could wed without having
a council vouch for the limpieza de sangre of his prospective
spouse. In some places second class citizens were obliged to
intermarry well into the nineteenth century because ecclesiastical
authorities refused licences for "mixed marriages".
Candidate for the priesthood still had to show purity of blood
going back four generations.
Limpieza de sangre entry requirements for the Spanish
Army and Navy were abolished in 1865, In November the same year,
a decree allowed children for whom ancestry could not be verified,
to enter religious establishments of higher education. In 1870
a decree suppressed all use of blood purity standards in determining
eligibility for any government position or licensed profession.
Less formalised discrimination was still present well into the
20th century. In Majorca for example, xuetas, people descended
from conversos and who would have failed the blood purity tests
were still considered second class. No xueta priest was allowed
to say Mass in a cathedral until the 1960s.
The Cagots provide an insight into Christian discrimination,
apartheid, and persecution because they were ordinary Catholics
persecuted by Catholics*.
Cagots were perfectly orthodox. No hint of heresy attached to
them. They lived ordinary lives as far as they were allowed
to and spoke the local language of where they lived. Their origins
are unknown and as far as we know they were persecuted for no
better reason that it was traditional to persecute them.
Cagots of France were one of the groups persecuted by Christians
for centuries, but now almost forgotten. Evidence of the Cagots
exists back as far as AD 1000, though their origins are lost
to history. In western France and northern Spain they were regarded
as an inferior caste of humans, even sub-humans. In medieval
times Cagots are recorded by different names such as Gahets,
and Gafets in Gascony; Agotes, Agotac, and Gafos in the Basque
country; Capots in Anjou and Languedoc; and Cacons, Cahets,
Caqueux, and Caquins in Brittany.
These Cagots were a race of pariahs, 'pestiferous people',
repressed for a thousand years as untouchables. Their history
is obscure. Today hardly anyone will talk about it. Surviving
Cagots are ashamed of their untouchable past. The French are
ashamed of what they and their Church did.
The Cagots were not a religious group, nor apparently an ethnic
group. They spoke the same language as the people in their area
and generally kept the same religion as well, generally Roman
Catholicism, but in some places after the Reformation, Protestantism.
Their only distinguishing feature was their descent from families
identified as Cagot.
were supposed to have strange heads, webbed feet and misshapen
ears. ‘Cagot ear’ is a medical term used today for
ears without earlobes.
The Roman Catholic Church was foremost in the persecution of
Cagots, even though the Cagots themselves were Roman Catholics.
In churches they were obliged to use their own water fonts,
not the normal font reserved for “clean” Catholics.
In the 18th century a wealthy Cagot in the Landes region was
caught using the font reserved for "clean" Catholics.
His hand was chopped off and nailed to the church door*.
Cagots sat in their own segregated pews. When the priest gave
communion he would throw the blessed host to them as though
they were dogs. Some kinder priests used a long wooden spoon,
still avoiding the touch of the outcasts. It was a crime for
Cagots to drink from the same communion cup as non-Cagots during
the periods when wine was permitted to the laity. They also
had their own church doors. These doors were usually built so
low that Cagots were forced to stoop as they entered, giving
a visible sign of their subservient status. At least 60 Pyrenean
churches still have Cagot entrances.
Attempts to stop the discrimination and cruelty had no effect,
and were ignored by local authorities and church authorities
alike*. Cagots were excluded
from all political and social rights. They were forced to be,
as the bible put it, “drawers of water and hewers of wood”.
(The same biblical verse was used elsewhere in the world by
Christians to justify slavery). They were restricted to certain
trades: carpentry, butchery, and rope-making – curiously
reminiscent of the restricted trades of Indian Untouchables.
They made coffins for the dead. They also became roofers and
expert woodworkers who built many of the Pyrenean churches from
which they were themselves partly excluded. Their geographical
spread is probably linked to the St James of Compostella pilgrim
routes where their building services would be most needed.
They seem to have been allowed certain restricted land, but
penalties were severe if they ever presumed to farm land outside
of their limits. A Cagot who dared to farm the fields outside
of these limits had his feet pierced with hot iron spikes. Other
limitations were also strictly enforced. Some offenders were
burned at the stake for failing to obey the apartheid laws.
At Lourdes, any Cagot who broke the rules had two strips of
flesh, each weighing two ounces, torn from sides of his spine.
Apartheid continued even after death. Cagots were buried in
their own distinct cemeteries on the northern side of the church
(there is still one in Bentayou-Sérée a village
north of Pau near the Spanish border).
Cagots were charged with the usual range of accusations levelled
by the Church against those it did not like. Cagots were mentally
defective, they were physically deformed, they were diseased,
they were sexually rapacious, they were criminals and they were
cannibals. Some said they were bisexual. Some that they had
magical powers. They were said to emit enough body heat to shrivel
an apple merely by holding it. Some claimed said that Cagot
veins ran with green blood and that this blood which oozed from
their navels on Good Friday. (We know from a few genuine medical
investigations that Cagots were in fact perfectly normal).
They were obliged to live in poor unhealthy areas segregated
from everyone else, just as elsewhere the Church forced Jews
to live in ghettos. Cagot ghettoes were known as Cagoteries.
Traces of them can still be found in Pyrenean villages (good
examples are Campan and Hagetmau).
Like Jews, Cathars and heretics they were forced to wear identifying
yellow badges Gagots were obliged to wear a yellow or red goose's
or duck’s foot conspicuously pinned to their clothes -
symbolising their own supposedly webbed toes. They were sometimes
called canards from their duck’s-foot badges. This ancient
practice of forcing minorities to wear identifying coloured
badges was, like many other Christian practices, later consciously
copied by the Nazis. By copying Church practices they successfully
claimed to be following a respectable Christian tradition.
Cagots were permitted to marry only other Cagots. Marriage
between Cagots and clean Catholics was unthinkable, and there
are songs surviving from the 16th and 17th centuries lamenting
When Cagots came into a town they had to warn of their presence
by shaking a rattle, just as lepers warned of their arrival
by ringing a bell. So pestilential was their touch that it was
a crime for them to walk barefoot, which gave credence to the
fable that they had webbed toes. They were not allowed to touch
the parapets of bridges. They were allowed to enter markets
on certain days, usually Mondays, so that others would know
when to stay indoors to avoid being polluted. If they risked
the wrong day to go to market they could be brutally punished,
beaten and flogged back to their ghettoes.
They were not allowed to walk in the middle of the street.
If they encountered a normal clean person, they had to shrink
to the side of the road, and stand quiet and silent in the gutters.
They were forbidden to carrying knives or other weapons and
were obliged to wear hoods to hide their faces. Eating or bathing
with normal “clean” Christians was forbidden. They
could not even use the same baths as other people.
During the French Revolution, the laws against Cagots were
formally abandoned by the new secular government. After 1789
many emigrated to escape the hatred and abuse which persisted
in the countryside. Those that remained slowly assimilated into
the general populace. Francisque Michel's Histoire des races
maudites (History of the Accursed Races), published
in 1847 was one of the first studies of the Cagots. Michel found
at least 10,000 Cagots still scattered across Gascony and Navarre,
and still suffering repression nearly 70 years after apartheid
and persecution had been officially banned. It seems finally
to have disappeared just as the Church is loosing its last vestiges
of influence in the French countryside.
The prevailing Christian view by the end of the Middle Ages
was that non-Europeans were inferior creatures. The Roman Catholic
Church debated for a long time whether newly discovered peoples
around the world were even human. The problem was that there
was no way of establishing whether or not they possessed souls.
Indigenous peoples of the Americas were a particular problem
because they clearly had a high culture of their own, and the
Roman Catholic Church debated with itself for a long time over
their exact nature.
When a debate held in 1550 at Valladolid in Spain led to the
conclusion that they might indeed be fully human, it became
difficult to justify keeping them in slavery. The short-term
solution was a system that was not called slavery but still
amounted to slavery. The long-term solution was to import slaves
bought in Africa. No one in Christendom seems to have worried
about the morality of enslaving Africans.
was also characteristically Christian. Hatred of the Jews had
been fostered by the Church for centuries, and was opposed by
freethinkers. Traditional Christian teachings have been anti-Semitic.
Jews were persecuted for centuries by the mainstream Churches
using exactly the same arguments, and drawing exactly the same
conclusions, as the Nazis did later. Many anti-Semitic racist
groups still flourish on a diet of Christianity*,
and affirming Christian belief is a membership requirement in
most of them throughout the western world.
Click on the following link for more on Christian
Racism and Colonisation
The Anglican Church was concerned about mental capacity, and
wary of trying to bring Christianity to people who might not
be able to understand it. The most common view amongst Christians
had been made explicit by the Barbados Assembly in 1681, when
it stated of black slaves that "Savage Brutishness renders
them wholly uncapable" of being converted*.
Most Christian slave owners had no doubt that the Assembly was
right. There was however a lively debate, mainly among senior
Anglicans, about the theological justification for converting
slaves. It was commonly held that any drive towards conversion
should be tailored towards their greatly inferior mental capacities.
Fed an appropriate diet of quiescent theology, blacks could,
it was claimed, become perfect slaves: compliant, accommodating
and socially calm. But this view was not universal amongst the
slave masters, and few slaves were converted*.
One problem with converting slaves was the danger that some
of them might win a place among the elect. As one slave owner
asked "Is it possible that any of my slaves could go to
Heaven, and must I see them there?"*.
A popular African complaint, attributed
Jomo Kenyatta, President of Kenya, and to Archbishop Desmond
When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans
had the land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They
taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened
them, they had the land and we had the Bible.
reason why Christianity found it so difficult to make voluntary
converts around the world was that it was so difficult for locals
to become priests. They were usually denied the right to learn
Latin or read the Bible, and therefore could not hope for a
career in the Church. The few who did could not hope to become
bishops, largely because European priests were not prepared
to serve under them. Such racism limited the spread of Christianity
in many places, but most notably in India.
In Africa the Churches changed their approaches in the twentieth
century. East Africa saw its first black Roman Catholic bishop
in 1939, and its first black Anglican bishop in 1947.
The belief of European Christians that other races were inferior
led to colonisation and large-scale abuse. The extirpation of
native peoples in the Americas, Australasia, and elsewhere was
of little consequence since these peoples were only pagans and
might not even possess souls. They were slaves by nature. God
had made them like that. Christian scholars and pseudo-scientists
concurred. Sample non-Christians were kept in Western zoos in
the nineteenth century. There was an Australian aborigine in
London Zoo. A Congolese pygmy named Ota Benga shared a cage
with an orang-utan in the Bronx Zoo as late as 1906*.
Ota Benga photographed while still an
exhibit in Bronx Zoo
by European powers was seen as a God-given opportunity for spreading
the gospel to the heathen. It was a Christian duty, even when
it led to the deaths of millions. God encouraged colonisation.
He showed the way. He spoke to churchmen. He cleared the path
for colonialists. His Churches were keen to convert or replace
native heathen populations. Both Roman Catholic and Protestant
Churches encouraged colonialism. Typically, in Africa, missionaries
would advance into new territories. Sooner or later they would
sow discord, encouraging rebellion against unsympathetic local
rulers. When bloodshed followed, the Churches would appeal to
European governments to intervene, and another territory would
be annexed. This process seems to have accounted for more than
half of the European colonies in Africa. As one historian puts
... by the middle of the twentieth century, an era marked
by civil rights movements, anti-colonialism, and growing secularization,
missionaries were viewed quite differently. Instead of godly
martyrs, historians now described missionaries as arrogant
and rapacious imperialists. Christianity became not a saving
grace but a monolithic and aggressive force that missionaries
imposed upon defiant natives. Indeed, missionaries were now
understood as important agents in the ever-expanding nation-state,
or ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose
zealotry blinded them."*
Churches were often guilty of complicity in massacres and atrocities
resulting from colonial policy. For example King Leopold was
granted control of the Congo in 1885 explicitly to bring Christianity
to the benighted heathen. The atrocities perpetrated by his
government in the Belgian Congo the extensive use of
slave labour and assorted murderous practices were first
concealed then minimised by the Roman Church. (The family of
Ota Benga mentioned above had been massacred by Leopold's Christian
Christian era Belgian Congo
Chidren had their hands cut off if they failed to work
hard enough for their Catholic masters
Yoka (standing) had his right hand cut off. Mola (seated)
lost both hands to gangrene after they were bound so tightly
as to cut off the blood supply.
Equateur, Congo Free State, circa 1905.
The truth about the Congo was published and international opinion
mobilised by nineteenth century freethinkers. Indeed, almost
the only criticism of colonisation and its evils came from freethinkers.
The most notable critics were Thomas Paine in the eighteenth
century and George Holyoake in the nineteenth, but their views
were generally regarded as wicked, sinful and contrary to God's
will. Colonisation was regarded by almost all Christians as
wholly good, divinely sanctioned and necessary, well into the
twentieth century. European children were removed from their
mothers and sent out to the colonies to help stock these new
lands. The children of single mothers in Britain, for example,
were often entrusted to Church charities that informed the children
they were orphans and sent them to Canada, Australia, New Zealand
and other colonies. As the Archbishop of Perth pointed out in
1938 "If we do not supply from our own stock, we are leaving
ourselves all the more exposed to the menace of the teeming
millions of our neighbouring Asian races"*.
The penitential garb associated with
the Christian persecution of
Jews, Moslems, heretics and atheists in Spain, is still
in popular use.
after public opinion had forced Christians to abandon the practice
of slavery, the prevailing orthodoxy was that non-whites were
inferior spiritually, morally, and mentally. Once again the
Bible was cited as proof. A favourite prooftext was "Let
them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water....
" (Joshua 9:21). All Churches maintained systems of racial
discrimination and sustained them well into the twentieth century,
including segregated churches and church schools. Racial segregation
was opposed largely by atheist intellectuals and other freethinkers.
It was not bishops or clergymen but unbelievers like Bertrand
Russell who spread the idea that all should be treated equally.
The Philippine-American War (1899-1902)
was inspired by God, who mentioned His idea to President
Wilson. This is a cartoon on the front page of the New
York Evening Journal on 5 May 1902, reporting the
order of General Jacob H. Smith to kill Filipinos over
ten years old - an cartoon that resulted in an investigation
and the General's court martial.
Buying and selling existing slaves was always perfectly acceptable
to Christians, since the Bible specifically permitted it, and
set out a number of rules to regulate it. Christians had a few
theoretical rules about slavery, for example Christians should
not in theory have enslaved other Christians unless they were
prisoners taken in battle. In practice these rules were highly
flexible, and the Church itself frequently condemned people
to slavery. There was no question about the bible's support
for slavery, but when widespread slavery became rare during
the Enlightenment, it now became necessary to justify specifically
Black Slavery. Fortunately there were some convenient ancient
The first justification came from a biblical character called
Phinehas. The biblical Phineas executed an Israelite man and
a Midianite woman while they were together in the man's tent,
running a spear or lance through the man and the belly of the
woman. This double killing ended a plague sent by God to punish
the Israelites for sexually intermingling with the Midianites,
engaging in idolatrous practices brought in by Midianite women,
and stopping the desecration of God's sanctuary. For his actions
Phineas is commemorated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church
on September 2. Phinehas, was cited by the promoters of laws
banning interracial marriages, and his name was used by Christian
Identity groups, such as the Phineas Priesthood.
A second justification came from another biblical character,
Ham, one of the sons of Noah. Ham committed some unspeakable
sexual crime against his father Noah (Gen. 9:20-27). For this
crime Noah cursed Ham's son Canaan. The narrative was interpreted
by Jews, Christians and Muslims as an explanation for Canaan
and his descendants being inferior beings, having black skin,
and being suited to lives of slavery. The Curse of Ham
was frequently cited as the biblical justification for imposing
eternal slavery upon black people, and black people alone.
Christians argued the theological point
whether negros were descended from Ham,
but even if they weren't, a negro was still a beast
"created witharticulate speach and hands, that he
may be of service to his master - the White man"
The biblical explanation that black Africans, as the "sons
of Ham", were cursed, possibly "blackened" by
their sins, was cited during the Middle Ages. It became increasingly
common during the Christian slave trade of the 18th and 19th
centuries. It was still a popular idea after the end of slavery
in the west, and some denominations retained the idea well into
secular times. Leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints taught that Black Africans were under the Curse of
Ham. For this reason, Brigham Young held that Black people
were banned from the Priesthood. In 1978 then president of the
Church, Spencer W. Kimball, said he received a revelation that
extended the Priesthood to all worthy male members of the Church.
A third justification came from the biblical story of Cain
and Abel, where Cain is marked in some way for his crime. Early
Christianity associated the Mark of Cain with black skin,
explicit references surviving in many early texts, including
Syriac and Armenian Christianity. The idea persisted through
the Middle Ages and was used by Christian supporters of slavery..
Africans in North America and the Caribbean.
The premise behind chattel slavery in North America had been
the traditional biblical one that slaves, like women and children,
were property. As such they had few, if any, legal rights.
Slave Advertisement, Charleston, South
Slaves were regarded like livestock - healthy specimens
commanded higher prices.
Slave codes were effective tools against slave discontent,
particularly uprisings and runaways. Enforcement of slave codes
varied, but corporal punishment was widely and harshly employed.
The original U.S. constitution discriminated against blacks.
In 1776, seven out of the Thirteen Colonies that declared their
independence enforced laws against interracial marriage. Both
Northern and Southern states had passed further discriminatory
legislation from the early 19th century.
As the abolitionist movement gained force, concern about blacks
heightened among some whites in the North. The 1848 Constitution
of Illinois led to one of the harshest Black Code systems in
the nation until the Civil War. Indiana's 1851 Constitution
stated "No Negro or Mulatto shall come into, or settle
in, the State, after the adoption of this Constitution."
The Illinois Black Code of 1853 extended a complete prohibition
against black immigration into the state.
Some American states had passed anti-miscegenation laws, banning
the marriage of whites to blacks ("negros"), in the
18th Century these laws were justified by reference to the Bible,
particularly of the stories of Phinehas and of the "Curse
of Ham". In the nineteenth century all slave states passed
anti-miscegenation laws laws, as did new free states, including
Indiana, Illinois and Michigan, using the same biblical justifications.
Some states continued to pass such laws well into the 20th century,
Christian era America - Loving v. Virginia,
388 U.S. 1 (1967) was a landmark civil rights decision
of the United States Supreme Court which invalidated laws
prohibiting interracial marriage. The case was brought
by Mildred Loving, a black woman, and Richard Loving,
a white man, who had been sentenced to a year in prison
in Virginia for marrying each other. Their marriage violated
the state's anti-miscegenation statute, the Racial Integrity
Act of 1924, which prohibited marriage between people
classified as "white" and people classified
as "colored". The Supreme Court's unanimous
decision held this prohibition was unconstitutional, reversing
Pace v. Alabama (1883) and ending all race-based legal
restrictions on marriage in the United States.
The idea of the Mark of Cain being black skin was particularly
popular in Baptist congregations in the North American colonies,
especially in the South where segregation was almost universal.
When a split between the Northern and Southern Baptist organizations
arose over slavery and the education of slaves, the Southern
Baptist used the curse of Cain as a justification for slavery.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, Baptist ministers in the southern
United States taught that there were two separate heavens; one
for blacks, and one for whites. Baptists taught and practiced
various forms of racial segregation well into the late twentieth
century, based on this idea.
African girl in a "human zoo",
when a Congolese village was displayed at Brussels' World
Human zoos have a long history in Christendom.
The exceptionally devout Christopher Columbus brought
indigenous Americans from his voyages in the New World
to exhibit at the Spanish court in 1493. In the 16th century,
Cardinal Hippolytus Medici possessed a collection of people
of different races including a troup of so-called Barbarians,
speaking over twenty languages, along with Moors, Tartars,
Indians, Turks and Africans. In the 1870s, exhibitions
of exotic populations became popular in various countries.
Human zoos could be found in Paris, Hamburg, Antwerp,
Barcelona, London, Milan, New York, and Warsaw and only
gradually faded away as modern secular ideas of equality
came to prevail in Protestant, then Catholic and then
Orthodox countries, and the whole theory of the "Mark
of Cain" became ever less acceptable.
The term "Black Codes" is used to refer to legislation
passed by Southern states at the end of the Civil War to control
the labor, migration and other activities of newly-freed slaves.
During 1865 all Southern states passed Black Codes preventing
emancipated slaves from becoming full citizens, allowing them
second-class civil rights and no voting rights. Black Codes
denied blacks the rights to testify against whites, to serve
on juries or in state militias, to vote, or to express legal
concern publicly. Black Codes also declared that those who failed
to sign yearly labour contracts could be arrested and hired
out to white landowners - attempting to re-implement a diluted
version of slavery. Some states limited occupations open to
African Americans and barred them from acquiring land. Others
provided for judges the authority to assign African American
children to work for their former owners without the consent
of their parents. In Texas, Black Codes were enacted in 1866.
The legislature, in amending the 1856 penal code, emphasised
the line between whites and blacks by defining all individuals
with one-eighth or more black ancestry as persons of color,
subject to special provisions in the law.
Codes ceased after 1866, and were soon replaced by so-called
Jim Crow laws. These were state and local laws enacted up to
1965. They mandated racial segregation in all public facilities
in Southern states of the former Confederacy, with, starting
in 1890, a "separate but equal" status for African
Americans. The separation in practice led to conditions for
African Americans that were inferior to those provided for white
Americans, instituting a number of economic, educational and
social disadvantages. Northern segregation was generally less
formal, with segregation in housing enforced by covenants, bank
lending practices, job discrimination, and segregation. Jim
Crow laws required the segregation of public schools, public
places, public transportation, public lavatories, restaurants,
and even required separate public drinking fountains for whites
and blacks. The US military was also segregated.
Lynching - everyone ever convicted of
lynching in the USA has been a devout Christian
Some of them have been Christian ministers and pastors
A double lynching in the Bible Belt -
apparently occasioning a pleasant evening out for the
Young girl at the lynching of Rubin
Stacey in Fort. Lauderdale on July 19, 1935
As for well over a thousand years during the period
of Christian dominance, public executions provided entertainment
for all the family. Apart from publicly torturing the
Ill, it was pretty much the only permisable activity
that provided innocent family fun as well as delivering
a moral lesson.
the USA where Christian values were strongest, millions of whites
belonged to the Ku Klux Klan, an organisation extolled by all
manner of Protestant churchmen. The Klan was then, and still
is now, a powerful advocate for Christianity. The Christian
cross features heavily in its activities and it has consistently
campaigned for the compulsory teaching of Christianity in public
schools. The Klan was so well accepted as a desirable part of
Christian American life that it commonly featured in the media
both factual and fictional.
Rev. Thomas Dixon's novel The Clansman, for example
was made into an influential film in 1915: Also known as The
Birth of a Nation it is W. Griffith's famous work, which
explicitly glorifies the Klan. (The film is now rarely shown,
and then only with heavy cuts). In the early 1920s the Klan
boasted over 4,000,000 members, every one of them a practicing
Christian. Woodrow Wilson, in his History of the American
People referred to the film as "great" and described
it as"terribly true".
The constitutionality of anti-miscegenation laws was upheld
by the US Supreme Court in the 1883 case Pace v. Alabama (106
US 583). The Supreme Court ruled that the Alabama anti-miscegenation
statute did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution. According to the court, both races were
treated equally, because whites and blacks were punished in
equal measure for breaking the law against interracial marriage
and interracial sex. Between 1913 and 1948, 30 out of the then
48 states enforced anti-miscegenation laws.
Ku Klux Klan Wedding in Sedro Wooley
Washington, 16 June,1926
News in Philadelphia, 1867
Martin Luther King wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham
Jail" in 1963 he was politely rebuking his fellow clergymen
from Alabama for their failure to support even nonviolent protest
against the racist enormities that were then everyday realities.
The letter refers to "the Negro church" and "the
white church" - a distinction that was taken for granted
by all. Here are a few of his comments directed, remember, to
clergymen who were his nominal allies:
Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city
in the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely
known. Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in
the courts. There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro
homes and churches in Birmingham than in any other city in
the nation. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case.
On the basis of these conditions, Negro leaders sought to
negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently
refused to engage in good faith negotiation. ... At first
I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen would see
my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist.
I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church
and its leadership.
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership of the
bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago, I felt
we would be supported by the white church. I felt that the
white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be
among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright
opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and
misrepresenting its leaders; all too many others have been
more cautious than courageous and have remained silent behind
the anesthetizing security of stained glass windows.
In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro,
I have watched white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth
pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities. In the
midst of a mighty struggle to rid our nation of racial and
economic injustice, I have heard many ministers say: "Those
are social issues, with which the gospel has no real concern."
In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the
So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice
with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender of
the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of
the church, the power structure of the average community is
consoled by the church's silent - and often even vocal - sanction
of things as they are.
But again I am thankful to God that some noble souls from
the ranks of organized religion have broken loose from the
paralyzing chains of conformity and joined us as active partners
in the struggle for freedom. They have left their secure congregations
and walked the streets of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have
gone down the highways of the South on tortuous rides for
freedom. Yes, they have gone to jail with us. Some have been
dismissed from their churches, have lost the support of their
bishops and fellow ministers.
(Click on this link to read
the full text)
Martin Luther King
removing a burnt Christian cross from his garden. In the
1960's Christian white supremicists like the Ku Klux Klan
often issued nocturnal warnings in the form of burning
white Churches were slow to see that times were changing. State-sponsored
school segregation had been declared unconstitutional by the
Supreme Court in 1954 in Brown v. Board of Education.
Remaining Jim Crow laws would soon be overruled by the Civil
Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The ruling in Pace v. Alabama was overturned in 1967
in the case of Loving v. Virginia, where the Supreme
Court declared anti-miscegenation laws a violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment and therefore unconstitutional.
Christian era America
remained longest in the USA where Christian belief was strongest.
Black people were denied education, the vote and civil rights.
Segregation was the norm in health care, in church, on public
transport, in places of entertainment, housing almost
every aspect of life. Various black rights groups and white
liberals brought the iniquity to public attention. In the course
of a few years public opinion shifted to such an extent that
discrimination was made illegal. Once again the most strongly
Christian states, like Alabama, fought a rearguard action in
the name of God, and interracial marriage remained illegal in
19 heavily Christian states until 1967*.
In the case that finally overturned mix-race marriage laws
the supreme Court cited the trial judge, Judge Leon M. Bazilein,
from the original case heard on 6 January, 1959, as follows:
Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay
and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but
for the interference with his arrangement there would be no
cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races
shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.*
This was entirely in line with traditional Christian teaching
it had been upheld for decades by Christian judges without
a second thought - but contrary to the minority secular humanist
Governor Ross Barnett was one who believed that "God was
the original segregationalist. He made the white man white and
the black man black and did not intend them to mix." Dr
W M Caskey, a faculty member at Mississippi College (a Baptist
Christian institution) supported Barnet confirming that the
Bible teaches that God was the original segregationalist. (Joseph
Crespino, In Search of Another Country: Mississippi and the
Conservative Counterrevolution, p 69).
Theodore Bilbo was one of Mississippi's great Christian demagogues.
Bilbo won a U.S. Senate seat campaigning against various ill
doers, including skunks who steal Gideon Bibles from hotel rooms.
Bilbo was also a virulent racist. "I call on every red-blooded
white man to use any means to keep the n[iggers away from the
polls," Bilbo proclaimed during his successful reelection
campaign in 1946. He was a proud member of the Ku Klux Klan,
telling Meet the Press that year that no man can leave
the Klan. "He takes an oath not to do that. Once a Ku Klux,
always a Ku Klux." During a filibuster of an anti-lynching
bill, Bilbo claimed that the bill would
... open the floodgates of hell in the South. Raping, mobbing,
lynching, race riots, and crime will be increased a thousandfold;
and upon your garments and the garments of those who are responsible
for the passage of the measure will be the blood of the raped
and outraged daughters of Dixie, as well as the blood of the
perpetrators of these crimes that the red-blooded Anglo-Saxon
White Southern men will not tolerate.
For Senator Bilbo racism was a sincerely held religious belief.
In a book Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization,
Bilbo wrote that "[p]urity of race is a gift of God . .
. . And God, in his infinite wisdom, has so ordained it that
when man destroys his racial purity, it can never be redeemed."
Allowing "the blood of the races [to] mix," was a
direct attack on the "Divine plan of God." There "is
every reason to believe that miscengenation and amalgamation
are sins of man in direct defiance to the will of God."
Bilbo was one of the South's most colorful racists, but hardly
alone in his Christian racism. As early as 1867, the Pennsylvania
Supreme Court had upheld segregated railway cars on the grounds
that the natural law which forbids racial intermarriage, and
that social amalgamation which leads to a corruption of races,
is as clearly divine as that which imparted to the races different
natures. The same rationale was later adopted by state supreme
courts in Alabama, Indiana and Virginia to justify bans on interracial
marriage, and by justices in Kentucky to support residential
segregation and segregated colleges.
In 1901, Georgia Governor Allen Candler defended unequal public
schooling for African Americans on the grounds that "God
made them negroes and we cannot by education make them white
folks." After the Supreme Court ordered public schools
to be integrated in the case of Brown v. Board of Education,
many segregationists cited their faith as justification for
official racism. Ross Barnett won Mississippi's governorship
in a landslide in 1960 after affirming that "the good Lord
was the original segregationist." Senator Harry Byrd of
Virginia relied on passages from Genesis, Leviticus and Matthew
when he spoke out against the civil rights law banning employment
discrimination and whites-only lunch counters on the Senate
Some Christian sects held out for longer. Bob Jones University
is a private non-denominational Protestant university in Greenville,
South Carolina, known for its conservative cultural and religious
positions. It excluded African Americans completely until the
early 1970s. Then it began permitting black students to attend
but only if they were married. In 1975, it amended this policy
to permit unmarried African American students, but continued
to prohibit interracial dating, interracial marriage, or even
being "affiliated with any group or organization which
holds as one of its goals or advocates interracial marriage."
Because of this, the Internal Revenue Service revoked Bob Jones'
tax-exempt status. That the IRS would no longer give tax subsidies
to racist schools, even though they claimed that their racism
was rooted in their religious belief, now became a rallying
point for the Christian Right. According to Paul Weyrich, the
conservative activist " the IRS' move against schools like
Bob Jones was the single most important issue driving the birth
of modern day religious conservatism. Weyrich described it as
the "federal government's move against the Christian schools."
When a legal case reached the Supreme Court in 1983, the Christian
University argued that IRS' regulations denying tax exemptions
to racist institutions "cannot constitutionally be applied
to schools that engage in racial discrimination on the basis
of sincerely held religious beliefs." The justices did
Christian era America
Curse of Cain was used to support a ban on ordaining
blacks to most Protestant clergies until the 1960s in both the
US and Europe. Catholic dioceses in the Southern United States
adopted a policy of not ordaining blacks to oversee, administer
the Sacraments to, or accept confessions from white parishioners.
This policy was justified by the perceived threat of having
slaves rule over their masters.
In 1995, the Southern Baptist Convention officially denounced
racism and apologized for its earlier defense of slavery. Other
Churches have made no apology for racism to anyone, though an
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr williams, raised great controvery
by suggesting that missionaries in Africa had "sinned".
This cafe, like many others in the USA,
was strictly segregated - notice the signs over the two
Christian racism in the USA extended
to anyone of the wrong religion or of non-European appearance
Shop owner, Kent, Washington,USA. March
2, 1944. United Press International (UPI)
Racism in Modern Times
It had become clear by the mid-1960s that world opinion was
moving away from the traditional Christian acceptance of discrimination.
In the future racist views were going to be politically and
socially unacceptable. If the Churches continued to hold to
traditional views they were likely to be left out on a limb.
Suddenly most world Churches became aware of a new duty in the
field of race relations.
Now that the tide of battle had turned, they declared their
opposition to all kinds of racism. To prove how deeply they
held their new beliefs they appointed black priests and bishops,
and joined in the badgering of those who stayed constant to
the beliefs that they themselves had just abandoned. Ten years
earlier, many had shared with Mormons the view that black people
were descended from Cain. He and his descendants had been cursed
by the Lord with a black skin and prohibited from the priesthood*.
sort of belief had been commonplace among white Christians
Roman Catholics, Protestants, Baptists and other nonconformists
alike. Now it was no longer acceptable to say such things openly.
Mormons were pressed to fall into line with the new orthodoxy.
They held out for as long as they could. Then God stepped in
(as he had previously done over polygamy) to announce a politically
astute change of policy.
In June 1978 the President of the Mormon Church announced a
divine revelation that reversed the Church's position. Black
people could now become full members of the Church.
The Dutch Reformed Church provided theological
(and biblical) justification for apartheid in Southy Africa.
next turned to the last bastion of Christian racism, South Africa.
Through the 1960s the Dutch Reformed Church claimed biblical
authority for the practice of apartheid, and no other Church
had seriously opposed it. As Dr Verwoerd, the Prime Minister
of South Africa had said "We did what God wanted us to
do"*. The position
had long been held by white Christians in South Africa, who
also supported the Curse of Ham theory*.
In the 1970s this line was no longer tenable. All other world
Churches had performed a volte-face and were now aligned
against their erstwhile ally. For a while the Dutch Reformed
Church held out on its own against its fellow Christian denominations,
still advocating the traditional Christian line. But the pressure
became stronger as the chorus against it became louder. Eventually
the Church gave way. By the 1980s it was assuring us that God
did not approve of apartheid after all: in fact he disapproved
of it. Within a generation the Church went from supporting apartheid
to condemning it as "the antichrist", just as other
Churches had done a few years earlier. Anglican and Roman Catholic
Churches even withdrew their full-time chaplains from the South
African armed forces*.
Christian era America - Ruby Nell Bridges
Hall (born September 8, 1954) in 1960 was the first black
child to attend an all-white elementary school in the
Southern states of the USA. She needed protection by US
marshals from White Christians (including parents and
teachers) who threatened to kill her.
William Frantz Elementary School, New Orleans, Louisiana
(Nov. 14th, 1960)
the end of the 1960's the only remaining avowed white supremacists
in the world were Christians. The hard-core of white supremacists
in South Africa are still strong Christians, as are those in
other countries. In the UK the only political party that required
members to be Christian was the British National Party. In America,
Christians with traditional views kept alive the Ku Klux Klan.
The well-known cowls and robes worn by members are the traditional
garb of Christian penitents and pilgrims. The Christian cross
still plays an important rôle in their activities. They
proudly wear the emblem on their robes, and use burning crosses
to encourage a fear of God. They raise money for churches. They
donate bibles to schools. They are, they say, conducting a Christian
Crusade. This crusade has involved lynchings and bombings, and
arson attacks on black churches. The Macedonia Baptist Church
of South Carolina sued the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux
Klan in 1996 after members had been arrested in connection
with such arson attacks*.
As the Ku Klux Klan website still says in its homepage they
are “bringing a message of hope and deliverance for white
In the twenty first century, Christian Klan members are still
engaging in activities such as arson attacks on non-white homes,
and participating in anti-immigration marches.
Christian era America - Ku Klux Klan
campaigns are not always negative;
They have supported Christian causes since their foundation.
many places throughout the world whites still go to one church,
and blacks to a different one on the other side of town. Christians
of one colour who try to attend Christian churches of another
are sent on their way, sometimes with a discreet word, sometimes
with a less discreet word. This practice is largely responsible
for the growth of separate white and black Churches. So it is
that almost all of the 16 million members of the Southern Baptist
Convention in the USA happen to be white, although there are
roughly as many black Baptists in the country*.
Black churchgoers usually belong to all-black denominations*,
such as the National Baptist Convention in the USA. Black Roman
Catholics in the USA want a distinctive black American rite
and have periodically threatened to set one up, with or without
backing from the Vatican*.
As Martin Luther King observed, the USA is most segregated at
11am on Sunday morning [when all good Christians are in their
own racially segregated churches].
White Supremacist Christians are still
active in the USA
of traditional Christian attitudes to racial matters still continue
today: they cannot be obliterated in a single generation. When
Ugandan born Dr John Sentanu was enthroned as Archbishop of
York in 2005 he received a hail of insulting racist letters
some of them smeared with excrement*.
They presumably came from Anglicans, and possibly from other
Christians, as non-Christians would not have reason to care.
Sociological studies in Britain and the USA have demonstrated
that Christians still tend to be more racially prejudiced than
non-Christians. In a book comparing the results of studies concerning
prejudice, the authors state that "The basic finding that
church members are more prejudiced than non-members has been
widely confirmed in American studies"*.
According to these studies Roman Catholics were the most prejudiced
major denomination in the US. Similar studies showed that Anglicans
were the most prejudiced in Britain*.
In another study, religious orthodoxy was found to be positively
correlated with belief in racial segregation*.
Ideas like this can easily be found on
traditionalist white-supremicist Christian websites.
According to their ideas Adam and Eve were white, and
created after other races which all
consist of soulless hominids - so they are not truly human
. A Merrie Melodies animated cartoon
directed by Bob Clampett, produced by Leon Schlesinger
Productions, and released to theatres on January 16, 1943
by Warner Bros. Pictures and The Vitaphone Corporation.
Lobby card 1942. the cartoon is one of the "Censored
Eleven", a group of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies
cartoons that were withheld from syndication by United
Artists in 1968.
White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPs)
in the USA were equally horrified by their predominently
Protestant country being overrun by Irish Catholics from
the West on the one hand, and Chinese heathens from the
East.on the other.
From the The Dake Annotated Reference
Bible - an annotated version of the Kings James'Bible.
Notes on Acts 17:26 expand upon God's insistence that
different races should be segregated. Such notes were
typical in many bibles. The Dake Annotated Reference Bible
(1963) was the first widely published study bible produced
within the Pentecostalist community.
Caracatures of Chinese Americans
Jim Crow. The name "Jim Crow"
has been attributed to "Jump Jim Crow", a song-and-dance
caricature of blacks performed by a white actor, Thomas
D. Rice, in blackface. It was used in 1832 to satirize
Andrew Jackson's populist policies. "Jim Crow"
soon become a pejorative expression meaning "Negro"
by 1838. When southern legislatures passed laws of racial
segregation directed against blacks during the 19th century,
they came to be referred to as Jim Crow laws.
Noddy Makes a Mistake
Christian era America - Coon Chicken
Inn was an American chain of restaurants founded by Maxon
Lester Graham and Adelaide Burt in 1925. It featured a
characature, shown below, and prospered until the late
Christian era America
Christian era America
Christian era America
Christian era America - Circa 1920.
The Texas Restaurant Association posted these signs
at the entrances and exits to all restaurants in the
Christian era America - Old B &
O Railroad Sign For Sale
Christian era America
Durban, South Africa, 1960's
Christian era America - Grand Theatre,
Birmingham, Alabama, USA, 1931
The Cape, South Africa, 1960's
Christian era America
Durban, South Africa, 1960's
Christian era America - Dimmit, Texas,
"We don't want any Japs back here
- EVER", ca. March 2, 1944
Christian era America - Frank Embree,
having been stripped and whipped, about to be lynched
in Fayette, Missouri, USA, 1899.
Christian era America
Christian era America - A sign in Jackson,
Mississippi, photographed in 1961
Christian era America - A redesigned
museum at Ferris State University in Michigan collects
old and new racist objects
Christian era America
Christian era America - Early Nineteenth
Christian era America - Hendlers Ice
Christian era America - Mid Nineteenth
Century American Advertisements
Christian era America - Mid Nineteenth
Century American Advertisements
The Fall Creek Massacre was a slaughter
of nine Indians of uncertain tribal origin in 1824 by
white settlers in Madison County, Indiana. Seven white
men participated in the crimes. Four were captured and
charged with murder. All four were convicted and sentenced
to death by hanging.
It was the first documented case in which white Americans
were convicted, sentenced to capital punishment, and executed
for the murder of Native Americans under the law in the
United States of America
Christian era America - The Ku Klux Klan
Christian era America - The Ku Klux Klan
Enjoying Themselves. Bless!
Christian era America - Dorothy Counts,
one of the first black students to enter the newly desegregated
Harry Harding High School is mocked by whites on her first
day of school. (Douglas Martin)
Christian era - Pears Soap Ad
Christian era America - Texaco Advertisement
Christian era Canada - My Heart Is White
Christian era America - A caracatured
Chinaman eats rats
Christian era - Fairy Soap Advert
Christian era America - A Japanese family
returning home ( Seattle, Washington ) from a relocation
center camp in Hunt, Idaho on May 10, 1945
Christian era America - Ten Little Niggers
Christian era America - Simple Addition
by a Little Nigger was originally published circa 1874
by McLoughlin Brothers of New York.
You can still buy it from Barnes & Noble for $11.65.
This marker is in the Fairhaven neighborhood
of Bellingham, Washington, USA. Bellingham Mayor Dan
Pike issued a formal apology to the Chinese community
for the expulsion of their people,125 years ago.
Pike says the apology is meant to make
it clear: authorities now see the racist actions by
regional governments and their supporters more than
a century ago were wrong.. In 1885 and 1886, thousands
of Chinese immigrants were driven out of Puget Sound
towns during an economic downturn. The Christian community
argued that the new residents were taking jobs away
from (Christian) white people.
Christian era America - Ex-slaves attend
reunion. Washington D.C. October, 1916
Reconstruction of mid-1820s LaLaurie
household in New Orleans
Marie Delphine LaLaurie (née
Macarty or Maccarthy, c. 1775 c. 1842), more
commonly known as Madame LaLaurie, was a Louisiana-born
socialite and serial killer known for her involvement
in the torture and murder of slaves.
Born in New Orleans, LaLaurie married three times over
the course of her life. She maintained a prominent position
in the social circles of New Orleans until April 10,
1834, when rescuers responding to a fire at her Royal
Street mansion discovered bound slaves within the house
who showed evidence of torture over a long period. LaLaurie's
house was sacked by an outraged mob of New Orleans citizens,
and it is thought that she fled to Paris.
As of 2013, the Royal Street mansion was still a prominent
New Orleans landmark.
Christian era - Tintin in the Congo (French:
Tintin au Congo) is the second volume of The Adventures
of Tintin, the comics series by Belgian cartoonist Hergé.
Commissioned by the conservative Catholic Belgian newspaper
Le Vingtième Siècle for its children's
supplement Le Petit Vingtième, it was serialised
weekly from May 1930 to June 1931.
Christian era - Tintin fights natives
Christian era advertising - Nigger Milk
Christian era advertising - Nigger Head
Christian era America
Christian era America - dispossessing
the "First Nations"
Christian era America
Christian era advertising - The Jolly
Christian era advertising - Peachtree
Christian era advertising - advertising
Christian era advertising - soap advert
Christian era advertising - "beaten
Christian era advertising - white paint
Christian era advertising - soap advert
Christian era advertising - ginger
Christian era advertising - Chlorinol
Christian era advertising - Dixie Boy
Caricature of Bismarck cutting up Africa
between the European nations at the Conference of Berlin
Christian era America - Washington Post,
Oct. 27, 1895
Christian era America -Tuskegee Syphilis
The Tuskegee syphilis experiment was
a clinical study conducted between 1932 and 1972 by the
U.S. Public Health Service to study the natural progression
of untreated syphilis in rural African-American men in
Alabama. They were told that they were receiving free
health care from the U.S. government. The Public Health
Service started working on this study in 1932 in collaboration
with the Tuskegee Institute, a historically black college
in Alabama. Investigators enrolled in the study a total
of 600 impoverished male sharecroppers from Macon County,
Alabama. Of the 600, 399 had previously contracted syphilis
before the study began, and 201 did not have the disease.
The men were given free medical care, meals, and free
burial insurance for participating in the study. None
of the men infected was ever told he had the disease,
nor was any treated for it with penicillin after this
antibiotic became proven for treatment. According to the
Centers for Disease Control, the men were told they were
being treated for "bad blood", a local term
for various illnesses that include syphilis, anemia, and
fatigue. The 40-year study was controversial for reasons
related to ethical standards, primarily because researchers
knowingly failed to treat patients appropriately after
the 1940s validation of penicillin as an effective cure
for the disease they were studying. In 1964 the World
Health Organization's Declaration of Helsinki specified
that experiments involving human beings needed the informed
consent of participants. But no one appeared to
have reevaluated the protocols of the Tuskegee Study according
to the new standards and in light of treatment available
for the otherwise usually fatal disease.
Medical ethics considerations were limited
from the start and rapidly got worse. To ensure that the
men would show up for the possibly dangerous, painful,
diagnostic, and non-therapeutic spinal taps, the doctors
sent the 400 patients a misleading letter titled "Last
Chance for Special Free Treatment". The study also
required all participants to undergo an autopsy after
death in order to receive funeral benefits. After penicillin
was discovered as a cure, researchers continued to deny
known effective treatment to many study participants.
Many were lied to and given placebo treatments so that
researchers could observe the full, long-term progression
of the fatal disease. The study continued, under numerous
US Public Health Service supervisors, until 1972. In July
25, 1972 the Tuskegee Study was reported by Jean Heller
of the Associated Press; the next day the New York Times
carried it on its front page, and the story captured national
attention. Peter Buxtun, a whistleblower who was a former
PHS interviewer for venereal disease, had leaked information
after failing to get a response to his protests about
the study within the department.
Victims of the study included numerous
men who died of syphilis, 40 wives who contracted the
disease, and 19 children born with congenital syphilis.
Revelations of study failures by a whistleblower led to
major changes in U.S. law and regulation on the protection
of participants in clinical studies. Now studies require
informed consent, communication of diagnosis, and accurate
reporting of test results.
Christian era advertising - Five Little
Christian era America - I Am A Man -
refering to the campaign for the abolition of slavery
Christian era advertising - Topsy Tobacco
Christian era advertising - Darkey in
Christian era America - Housing segregation
Christian era advertising - Nigger Head
Christian era advertising - Dark Tan
Christian era advertising - Nigger Hair
Christian era America
Christian era America - September 15
1963 16th Street Baptist Church bombing:
White Christians murdering Black Children.
The 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was an act of white
Christian terrorism which occurred at the African-American
16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday,
September 15, 1963. Four members of the strongly Christian
Ku Klux Klan planted at least 15 sticks of dynamite attached
to a timing device beneath the front steps of the church.
The explosion at the church killed four girls and injured
22 others. The FBI concluded in 1965 that the bombing
had been committed by four known Ku Klux Klansmen and
Christian segregationists: Bobby Frank Cherry; Thomas
Edwin Blanton, Jr.; Herman Frank Cash; and Robert Edward
Chambliss. Despite this, no prosecution ensued until 1977,
when Chambliss was tried and convicted of the first degree
murder of one of the victims, 11-year-old Carol Denise
McNair. Blanton and Cherry were each convicted of four
counts of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in
2001 and 2002 respectively. Cash died in 1994 never having
been charged for is part in the bombing.
Christian era advertising - Water Mellon
The Rwuandan Legacy - an echo of Belgian
Christian era advertising - Rots of Ruck
Christian era America - Routine and widespread
Christian era America - Negro Records
The Citizens' Councils (also referred
to as White Citizens' Councils) were an associated network
of white supremacist Christian organizations in the United
States, concentrated in the South. The first was formed
on July 11, 1954. With about 60,000 members, all over
the United States, but mostly in the South, the groups
were founded primarily to oppose racial integration of
schools, but they also supported segregation of public
facilities during the 1950s and 1960s. Members used intimidation
tactics including economic boycotts, firing people from
jobs, propaganda, and occasionally violence against civil-rights
activists. The successor organization to the White
Citizens' Councils is the Council of Conservative
Citizens, founded in 1985. It considers itself a traditional
conservative group opposing liberals and neo-conservatives.
. Its specific interests include race relations, especially
interracial marriage which it opposes, and conservative
Christian era advertising - Lord Have
Christian era advertising - Pear's Soap
Christian era advertising - Pear's Soap
Christian era advertising - All Coons
Christian era advertising - Nigger Head
Christian era advertising - Old Gold
Christian era advertising - Nigger Hair
Tobacco was a brand that sold from 1878 up to the 1950s.
During the 1950s, the brand was renamed Bigger Hair
Tobacco after being pressured by the NAACP
Christian era advertising - Black-face
Christian era advertising - Nigger Make-up
Christian era advertising - Real Mayonnaise
Christian era advertising - Life Savers
Christian era advertising - Licorice
Christian era advertising - Nigger Head
Christian era advertising - Dat Nigger's
Christian era advertising - Javel
Christian era America - Housing Segregation
- a key selling point
Christian era advertising - The Coon's
Christian era America - poster discouraging
Christian era America - Lynching
Christian era America - 1967
Christian era advertising - Coon song
Christian era advertising - Stainilgo
Christian era advertising - Nigger Joe's
Christian era America
Christian era advertising - Gollywog
More social issues:
§. For more on the
Cagot's see Tom Knox, The Marks Of Cain, HarperCollins,
2010.. A web search for the word Cagot reveals numerous French
Website, many containing good source material including Church
records and photographs of Cagot doors, holy water stoops and
§. Graham Robb, The Discovery of France, W. W. Norton, 2007, ISBN 0393059731, p. 44.
§. Secular and a few religious rulers made nominal attempts to prevent persecution. Following an appeal by the Cagots to Pope Leo X he published a bull insisting that the Cagots be treated "with kindness, in the same way as the other believers" but no one seems to have paid any attention.
§. James Walvin, Black Ivory A History of British Slavery, p 184, citing R. S. Dunn, Sugar and Slaves ( London, 1977), p 249.
§. James Walvin, Black Ivory A History of British Slavery, p 182.
§. James Walvin, Black Ivory A History of British Slavery, p 184, citing Peter Wood, Black Majority, Negroes in Colonial South Carolina (New York, 1975), p 135.
§. Arguably, Ota
Benga was fortunate. During King Leopold's control of the Belgian
Congo, supported by the Roman Church, the population was reduced
by about half, from around 20,000,000 to about 10,000,000. See
Adam Hochschild, King Leopold's Ghost, Macmillan (1999).
(2010). "Christian Missions and Colonial Empires Reconsidered:
A Black Evangelist in West Africa, 17661816". Journal
of Church & State 51 (4): 663691. doi:10.1093/jcs/csp090.
"Historians have traditionally looked at Christian missionaries
in one of two ways. The first church historians to catalogue
missionary history provided hagiographic descriptions of their
trials, successes, and sometimes even martyrdom. Missionaries
were thus visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea
of persistent savagery. However, by the middle of the twentieth
century, an era marked by civil rights movements, anti-colonialism,
and growing secularization, missionaries were viewed quite differently.
Instead of godly martyrs, historians now described missionaries
as arrogant and rapacious imperialists. Christianity became
not a saving grace but a monolithic and aggressive force that
missionaries imposed upon defiant natives. Indeed, missionaries
were now understood as important agents in the ever-expanding
nation-state, or ideological shock troops for colonial
invasion whose zealotry blinded them."
§. Humphreys, Empty Cradles, p 11.
§. State laws declaring
inter-racial marriage to be illegal were declared unconstitutional
by the US Supreme Court (Loving v Virginia, 1967)
§. US Supreme Court,
LOVING v. VIRGINIA, 388 US 1 (1967). 388 US 1 Appeal From The
Supreme Court Of Appeals Of Virginia. No. 395. Argued April
10, 1967. Decided June 12, 1967. (206 Va. 924, 147 S. E. 2d
78, reversed, as being contrary to the Fourteenth Amendment
§. Brigham Young,
manuscript History of the Church. This and other sources
including the Book of Mormon are discussed by Robert
Basil et al (eds.), On the Barricades, p 139,
Sayings of the Week, 26 th March 1961.
§. David Chidester,
Religions of South Africa (Routledge Revivals), (Oxford:
Routledge, 1992), pp 89-112.
§. Clifford Longley, article in The Times, 28 th October 1985.
§. “ Clinton promises to stop black church bombings”, The Times, 10 th June 1996.
§ “Welcome to the Ku Klux Klan! Bringing a Message of Hope and Deliverance to White Christian America!” http://www.kkk.com/ as at September 2007.
§. The Economist, p 26, 16 th May 1987.
§. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion, p 169.
§. The Economist, p 40, 12 th August 1989.
§. The Economist, p 44, 2 nd November.
§. The Times, 22 October 2005, p9. “First black archbishop receives racist hate mail”
§. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi,
The Social Psychology of Religion, p 112. References
to and summaries of a number of studies are also provided PP
§. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi, The Social Psychology of Religion, p 113.
§. Argyle and Beit-Hallahmi,
The Social Psychology of Religion, p 118.
"Letter from a Birmingham Jail" 16 April 1963,
Below is the text of a letter from Martin Luther King Jr to
by eight fellow clergymen from Alabama (Bishop C. C. J. Carpenter,
Bishop Joseph A. Durick, Rabbi Hilton L. Grafman, Bishop Paul
Hardin, Bishop Holan B. Harmon, the Reverend George M. Murray.
the Reverend Edward V. Ramage and the Reverend Earl Stallings).
In publishing this version, King says "Although the text
remains in substance unaltered, I have indulged in the author's
prerogative of polishing it for publication."
16 April 1963
My Dear Fellow Clergymen:
While confined here in the Birmingham city
jail, I came across your recent statement calling my present
activities "unwise and untimely." Seldom do I pause
to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer
all the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would
have little time for anything other than such correspondence
in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive
work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will
and that your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I want to
try to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient
and reasonable terms.
I think I should indicate why I am here in
Birmingham, since you have been influenced by the view which
argues against "outsiders coming in." I have the honor
of serving as president of the Southern Christian Leadership
Conference, an organization operating in every southern state,
with headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. We have some eighty five
affiliated organizations across the South, and one of them is
the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights. Frequently
we share staff, educational and financial resources with our
affiliates. Several months ago the affiliate here in Birmingham
asked us to be on call to engage in a nonviolent direct action
program if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented,
and when the hour came we lived up to our promise. So I, along
with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited
here. I am here because I have organizational ties here.
But more basically, I am in Birmingham because
injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century
B.C. left their villages and carried their "thus saith
the Lord" far beyond the boundaries of their home towns,
and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and
carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the
Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of
freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly
respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness
of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta
and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice
anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in
an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment
of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.
Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial
"outside agitator" idea. Anyone who lives inside the
United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within
You deplore the demonstrations taking place
in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails
to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought
about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want
to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis
that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying
causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place
in Birmingham, but it is even more unfortunate that the city's
white power structure left the Negro community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four
basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices
exist; negotiation; self purification; and direct action. We
have gone through all these steps in Birmingham. There can be
no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community.
Birmingham is probably the most thoroughly segregated city in
the United States. Its ugly record of brutality is widely known.
Negroes have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts.
There have been more unsolved bombings of Negro homes and churches
in Birmingham than in any other city in the nation. These are
the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions,
Negro leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But
the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
Then, last September, came the opportunity
to talk with leaders of Birmingham's economic community. In
the course of the negotiations, certain promises were made by
the merchants--for example, to remove the stores' humiliating
racial signs. On the basis of these promises, the Reverend Fred
Shuttlesworth and the leaders of the Alabama Christian Movement
for Human Rights agreed to a moratorium on all demonstrations.
As the weeks and months went by, we realized that we were the
victims of a broken promise. A few signs, briefly removed, returned;
the others remained. As in so many past experiences, our hopes
had been blasted, and the shadow of deep disappointment settled
upon us. We had no alternative except to prepare for direct
action, whereby we would present our very bodies as a means
of laying our case before the conscience of the local and the
national community. Mindful of the difficulties involved, we
decided to undertake a process of self purification. We began
a series of workshops on nonviolence, and we repeatedly asked
ourselves: "Are you able to accept blows without retaliating?"
"Are you able to endure the ordeal of jail?" We decided
to schedule our direct action program for the Easter season,
realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping
period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic-withdrawal
program would be the by product of direct action, we felt that
this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the
merchants for the needed change.
Then it occurred to us that Birmingham's mayoral
election was coming up in March, and we speedily decided to
postpone action until after election day. When we discovered
that the Commissioner of Public Safety, Eugene "Bull"
Connor, had piled up enough votes to be in the run off, we decided
again to postpone action until the day after the run off so
that the demonstrations could not be used to cloud the issues.
Like many others, we waited to see Mr. Connor defeated, and
to this end we endured postponement after postponement. Having
aided in this community need, we felt that our direct action
program could be delayed no longer.
You may well ask: "Why direct action?
Why sit ins, marches and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better
path?" You are quite right in calling for negotiation.
Indeed, this is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent
direct action seeks to create such a crisis and foster such
a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate
is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the
issue that it can no longer be ignored. My citing the creation
of tension as part of the work of the nonviolent resister may
sound rather shocking. But I must confess that I am not afraid
of the word "tension." I have earnestly opposed violent
tension, but there is a type of constructive, nonviolent tension
which is necessary for growth. Just as Socrates felt that it
was necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals
could rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the
unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal,
so must we see the need for nonviolent gadflies to create the
kind of tension in society that will help men rise from the
dark depths of prejudice and racism to the majestic heights
of understanding and brotherhood. The purpose of our direct
action program is to create a situation so crisis packed that
it will inevitably open the door to negotiation. I therefore
concur with you in your call for negotiation. Too long has our
beloved Southland been bogged down in a tragic effort to live
in monologue rather than dialogue.
One of the basic points in your statement
is that the action that I and my associates have taken in Birmingham
is untimely. Some have asked: "Why didn't you give the
new city administration time to act?" The only answer that
I can give to this query is that the new Birmingham administration
must be prodded about as much as the outgoing one, before it
will act. We are sadly mistaken if we feel that the election
of Albert Boutwell as mayor will bring the millennium to Birmingham.
While Mr. Boutwell is a much more gentle person than Mr. Connor,
they are both segregationists, dedicated to maintenance of the
status quo. I have hope that Mr. Boutwell will be reasonable
enough to see the futility of massive resistance to desegregation.
But he will not see this without pressure from devotees of civil
rights. My friends, I must say to you that we have not made
a single gain in civil rights without determined legal and nonviolent
pressure. Lamentably, it is an historical fact that privileged
groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily. Individuals
may see the moral light and voluntarily give up their unjust
posture; but, as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups tend
to be more immoral than individuals.
We know through painful experience that freedom
is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded
by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct
action campaign that was "well timed" in the view
of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.
For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings
in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait"
has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see,
with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too
long delayed is justice denied."
We have waited for more than 340 years for
our constitutional and God given rights. The nations of Asia
and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward gaining political
independence, but we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward
gaining a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. Perhaps it is easy
for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation
to say, "Wait." But when you have seen vicious mobs
lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters
and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen
curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; when
you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers
smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an
affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted
and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six
year old daughter why she can't go to the public amusement park
that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling
up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored
children, and see ominous clouds of inferiority beginning to
form in her little mental sky, and see her beginning to distort
her personality by developing an unconscious bitterness toward
white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five
year old son who is asking: "Daddy, why do white people
treat colored people so mean?"; when you take a cross county
drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the
uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will
accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging
signs reading "white" and "colored"; when
your first name becomes "nigger," your middle name
becomes "boy" (however old you are) and your last
name becomes "John," and your wife and mother are
never given the respected title "Mrs."; when you are
harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are
a Negro, living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing
what to expect next, and are plagued with inner fears and outer
resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense
of "nobodiness"--then you will understand why we find
it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance
runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into
the abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate
and unavoidable impatience. You express a great deal of anxiety
over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate
concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme
Court's decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public
schools, at first glance it may seem rather paradoxical for
us consciously to break laws. One may well ask: "How can
you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The
answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just
and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws.
One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey
just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey
unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an
unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two?
How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just
law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the
law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with
the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas:
An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law
and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just.
Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation
statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and
damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense
of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.
Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher
Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for
an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons
to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically,
economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong
and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is
not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation,
his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is
that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme
Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey
segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
Let us consider a more concrete example of
just and unjust laws. An unjust law is a code that a numerical
or power majority group compels a minority group to obey but
does not make binding on itself. This is difference made legal.
By the same token, a just law is a code that a majority compels
a minority to follow and that it is willing to follow itself.
This is sameness made legal. Let me give another explanation.
A law is unjust if it is inflicted on a minority that, as a
result of being denied the right to vote, had no part in enacting
or devising the law. Who can say that the legislature of Alabama
which set up that state's segregation laws was democratically
elected? Throughout Alabama all sorts of devious methods are
used to prevent Negroes from becoming registered voters, and
there are some counties in which, even though Negroes constitute
a majority of the population, not a single Negro is registered.
Can any law enacted under such circumstances be considered democratically
Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust
in its application. For instance, I have been arrested on a
charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong
in having an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade.
But such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain
segregation and to deny citizens the First-Amendment privilege
of peaceful assembly and protest.
I hope you are able to see the distinction
I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading
or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That
would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do
so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty.
I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience
tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of
imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community
over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect
Of course, there is nothing new about this
kind of civil disobedience. It was evidenced sublimely in the
refusal of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to obey the laws of
Nebuchadnezzar, on the ground that a higher moral law was at
stake. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who
were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain
of chopping blocks rather than submit to certain unjust laws
of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality
today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience. In our
own nation, the Boston Tea Party represented a massive act of
We should never forget that everything Adolf
Hitler did in Germany was "legal" and everything the
Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was "illegal."
It was "illegal" to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler's
Germany. Even so, I am sure that, had I lived in Germany at
the time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers.
If today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles
dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate
disobeying that country's antireligious laws.
I must make two honest confessions to you,
my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that
over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with
the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion
that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward
freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux
Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order"
than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence
of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice;
who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you
seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action";
who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for
another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time
and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more
convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of
good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding
from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering
than outright rejection.
I had hoped that the white moderate would
understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing
justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become
the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social
progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand
that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of
the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the
Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive
and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity
and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent
direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring
to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We
bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with.
Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered
up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines
of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension
its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the
air of national opinion before it can be cured.
In your statement you assert that our actions,
even though peaceful, must be condemned because they precipitate
violence. But is this a logical assertion? Isn't this like condemning
a robbed man because his possession of money precipitated the
evil act of robbery? Isn't this like condemning Socrates because
his unswerving commitment to truth and his philosophical inquiries
precipitated the act by the misguided populace in which they
made him drink hemlock? Isn't this like condemning Jesus because
his unique God consciousness and never ceasing devotion to God's
will precipitated the evil act of crucifixion? We must come
to see that, as the federal courts have consistently affirmed,
it is wrong to urge an individual to cease his efforts to gain
his basic constitutional rights because the quest may precipitate
violence. Society must protect the robbed and punish the robber.
I had also hoped that the white moderate would reject the myth
concerning time in relation to the struggle for freedom. I have
just received a letter from a white brother in Texas. He writes:
"All Christians know that the colored people will receive
equal rights eventually, but it is possible that you are in
too great a religious hurry. It has taken Christianity almost
two thousand years to accomplish what it has. The teachings
of Christ take time to come to earth." Such an attitude
stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely
irrational notion that there is something in the very flow of
time that will inevitably cure all ills. Actually, time itself
is neutral; it can be used either destructively or constructively.
More and more I feel that the people of ill will have used time
much more effectively than have the people of good will. We
will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful
words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence
of the good people. Human progress never rolls in on wheels
of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men
willing to be co workers with God, and without this hard work,
time itself becomes an ally of the forces of social stagnation.
We must use time creatively, in the knowledge that the time
is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the
promise of democracy and transform our pending national elegy
into a creative psalm of brotherhood. Now is the time to lift
our national policy from the quicksand of racial injustice to
the solid rock of human dignity.
You speak of our activity in Birmingham as
extreme. At first I was rather disappointed that fellow clergymen
would see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist. I
began thinking about the fact that I stand in the middle of
two opposing forces in the Negro community. One is a force of
complacency, made up in part of Negroes who, as a result of
long years of oppression, are so drained of self respect and
a sense of "somebodiness" that they have adjusted
to segregation; and in part of a few middle-class Negroes who,
because of a degree of academic and economic security and because
in some ways they profit by segregation, have become insensitive
to the problems of the masses. The other force is one of bitterness
and hatred, and it comes perilously close to advocating violence.
It is expressed in the various black nationalist groups that
are springing up across the nation, the largest and best known
being Elijah Muhammad's Muslim movement. Nourished by the Negro's
frustration over the continued existence of racial discrimination,
this movement is made up of people who have lost faith in America,
who have absolutely repudiated Christianity, and who have concluded
that the white man is an incorrigible "devil."
I have tried to stand between these two forces,
saying that we need emulate neither the "do nothingism"
of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.
For there is the more excellent way of love and nonviolent protest.
I am grateful to God that, through the influence of the Negro
church, the way of nonviolence became an integral part of our
struggle. If this philosophy had not emerged, by now many streets
of the South would, I am convinced, be flowing with blood. And
I am further convinced that if our white brothers dismiss as
"rabble rousers" and "outside agitators"
those of us who employ nonviolent direct action, and if they
refuse to support our nonviolent efforts, millions of Negroes
will, out of frustration and despair, seek solace and security
in black nationalist ideologies--a development that would inevitably
lead to a frightening racial nightmare.
Oppressed people cannot remain oppressed forever.
The yearning for freedom eventually manifests itself, and that
is what has happened to the American Negro. Something within
has reminded him of his birthright of freedom, and something
without has reminded him that it can be gained. Consciously
or unconsciously, he has been caught up by the Zeitgeist, and
with his black brothers of Africa and his brown and yellow brothers
of Asia, South America and the Caribbean, the United States
Negro is moving with a sense of great urgency toward the promised
land of racial justice. If one recognizes this vital urge that
has engulfed the Negro community, one should readily understand
why public demonstrations are taking place. The Negro has many
pent up resentments and latent frustrations, and he must release
them. So let him march; let him make prayer pilgrimages to the
city hall; let him go on freedom rides -and try to understand
why he must do so. If his repressed emotions are not released
in nonviolent ways, they will seek expression through violence;
this is not a threat but a fact of history. So I have not said
to my people: "Get rid of your discontent." Rather,
I have tried to say that this normal and healthy discontent
can be channeled into the creative outlet of nonviolent direct
action. And now this approach is being termed extremist. But
though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as
an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually
gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus
an extremist for love: "Love your enemies, bless them that
curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them
which despitefully use you, and persecute you." Was not
Amos an extremist for justice: "Let justice roll down like
waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream."
Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: "I
bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." Was not Martin
Luther an extremist: "Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise,
so help me God." And John Bunyan: "I will stay in
jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience."
And Abraham Lincoln: "This nation cannot survive half slave
and half free." And Thomas Jefferson: "We hold these
truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal .
. ." So the question is not whether we will be extremists,
but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists
for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation
of injustice or for the extension of justice? In that dramatic
scene on Calvary's hill three men were crucified. We must never
forget that all three were crucified for the same crime--the
crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and
thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ,
was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose
above his environment. Perhaps the South, the nation and the
world are in dire need of creative extremists.
I had hoped that the white moderate would
see this need. Perhaps I was too optimistic; perhaps I expected
too much. I suppose I should have realized that few members
of the oppressor race can understand the deep groans and passionate
yearnings of the oppressed race, and still fewer have the vision
to see that injustice must be rooted out by strong, persistent
and determined action. I am thankful, however, that some of
our white brothers in the South have grasped the meaning of
this social revolution and committed themselves to it. They
are still all too few in quantity, but they are big in quality.
Some -such as Ralph McGill, Lillian Smith, Harry Golden, James
McBride Dabbs, Ann Braden and Sarah Patton Boyle--have written
about our struggle in eloquent and prophetic terms. Others have
marched with us down nameless streets of the South. They have
languished in filthy, roach infested jails, suffering the abuse
and brutality of policemen who view them as "dirty nigger-lovers."
Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they
have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need
for powerful "action" antidotes to combat the disease
of segregation. Let me take note of my other major disappointment.
I have been so greatly disappointed with the white church and
its leadership. Of course, there are some notable exceptions.
I am not unmindful of the fact that each of you has taken some
significant stands on this issue. I commend you, Reverend Stallings,
for your Christian stand on this past Sunday, in welcoming Negroes
to your worship service on a nonsegregated basis. I commend
the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill
College several years ago.
But despite these notable exceptions, I must
honestly reiterate that I have been disappointed with the church.
I do not say this as one of those negative critics who can always
find something wrong with the church. I say this as a minister
of the gospel, who loves the church; who was nurtured in its
bosom; who has been sustained by its spiritual blessings and
who will remain true to it as long as the cord of life shall
When I was suddenly catapulted into the leadership
of the bus protest in Montgomery, Alabama, a few years ago,
I felt we would be supported by the white church. I felt that
the white ministers, priests and rabbis of the South would be
among our strongest allies. Instead, some have been outright
opponents, refusing to understand the freedom movement and misrepresenting
its leaders; all too many others have been more cautious than
courageous and have remained silent behind the anesthetizing
security of stained glass windows.
In spite of my shattered dreams, I came to
Birmingham with the hope that the white religious leadership
of this community would see the justice of our cause and, with
deep moral concern, would serve as the channel through which
our just grievances could reach the power structure. I had hoped
that each of you would understand. But again I have been disappointed.
I have heard numerous southern religious leaders
admonish their worshipers to comply with a desegregation decision
because it is the law, but I have longed to hear white ministers
declare: "Follow this decree because integration is morally
right and because the Negro is your brother." In the midst
of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched
white churchmen stand on the sideline and mouth pious irrelevancies
and sanctimonious trivialities. In the midst of a mighty struggle
to rid our nation of racial and economic injustice, I have heard
many ministers say: "Those are social issues, with which
the gospel has no real concern." And I have watched many
churches commit themselves to a completely other worldly religion
which makes a strange, un-Biblical distinction between body
and soul, between the sacred and the secular.
I have traveled the length and breadth of
Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering
summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's
beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward.
I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious
education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking:
"What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where
were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped
with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they
when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred?
Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro
men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency
to the bright hills of creative protest?"
Yes, these questions are still in my mind.
In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church.
But be assured that my tears have been tears of love. There
can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love.
Yes, I love the church. How could I do otherwise? I am in the
rather unique position of being the son, the grandson and the
great grandson of preachers. Yes, I see the church as the body
of Christ. But, oh! How we have blemished and scarred that body
through social neglect and through fear of being nonconformists.
There was a time when the church was very
powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at
being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those
days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the
ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat
that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians
entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately
sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers
of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the
Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a
colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man.
Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too
God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated."
By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient
evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different
now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual
voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an archdefender
of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence
of the church, the power structure of the average community
is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction
of things as they are.
But the judgment of God is upon the church
as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial
spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit
the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social
club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I
meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned
into outright disgust.
Perhaps I have once again been too optimistic.
Is organized religion too inextricably bound to the status quo
to save our nation and the world? Perhaps I must turn my faith
to the inner spiritual church, the church within the church,
as the true ekklesia and the hope of the world. But again I
am thankful to God that some noble souls from the ranks of organized
religion have broken loose from the paralyzing chains of conformity
and joined us as active partners in the struggle for freedom.
They have left their secure congregations and walked the streets
of Albany, Georgia, with us. They have gone down the highways
of the South on tortuous rides for freedom. Yes, they have gone
to jail with us. Some have been dismissed from their churches,
have lost the support of their bishops and fellow ministers.
But they have acted in the faith that right defeated is stronger
than evil triumphant. Their witness has been the spiritual salt
that has preserved the true meaning of the gospel in these troubled
times. They have carved a tunnel of hope through the dark mountain
of disappointment. I hope the church as a whole will meet the
challenge of this decisive hour. But even if the church does
not come to the aid of justice, I have no despair about the
future. I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in
Birmingham, even if our motives are at present misunderstood.
We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over
the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and
scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's
destiny. Before the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here.
Before the pen of Jefferson etched the majestic words of the
Declaration of Independence across the pages of history, we
were here. For more than two centuries our forebears labored
in this country without wages; they made cotton king; they built
the homes of their masters while suffering gross injustice and
shameful humiliation -and yet out of a bottomless vitality they
continued to thrive and develop. If the inexpressible cruelties
of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will
surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage
of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our
echoing demands. Before closing I feel impelled to mention one
other point in your statement that has troubled me profoundly.
You warmly commended the Birmingham police force for keeping
"order" and "preventing violence." I doubt
that you would have so warmly commended the police force if
you had seen its dogs sinking their teeth into unarmed, nonviolent
Negroes. I doubt that you would so quickly commend the policemen
if you were to observe their ugly and inhumane treatment of
Negroes here in the city jail; if you were to watch them push
and curse old Negro women and young Negro girls; if you were
to see them slap and kick old Negro men and young boys; if you
were to observe them, as they did on two occasions, refuse to
give us food because we wanted to sing our grace together. I
cannot join you in your praise of the Birmingham police department.
It is true that the police have exercised
a degree of discipline in handling the demonstrators. In this
sense they have conducted themselves rather "nonviolently"
in public. But for what purpose? To preserve the evil system
of segregation. Over the past few years I have consistently
preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must
be as pure as the ends we seek. I have tried to make clear that
it is wrong to use immoral means to attain moral ends. But now
I must affirm that it is just as wrong, or perhaps even more
so, to use moral means to preserve immoral ends. Perhaps Mr.
Connor and his policemen have been rather nonviolent in public,
as was Chief Pritchett in Albany, Georgia, but they have used
the moral means of nonviolence to maintain the immoral end of
racial injustice. As T. S. Eliot has said: "The last temptation
is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong
I wish you had commended the Negro sit inners
and demonstrators of Birmingham for their sublime courage, their
willingness to suffer and their amazing discipline in the midst
of great provocation. One day the South will recognize its real
heroes. They will be the James Merediths, with the noble sense
of purpose that enables them to face jeering and hostile mobs,
and with the agonizing loneliness that characterizes the life
of the pioneer. They will be old, oppressed, battered Negro
women, symbolized in a seventy two year old woman in Montgomery,
Alabama, who rose up with a sense of dignity and with her people
decided not to ride segregated buses, and who responded with
ungrammatical profundity to one who inquired about her weariness:
"My feets is tired, but my soul is at rest." They
will be the young high school and college students, the young
ministers of the gospel and a host of their elders, courageously
and nonviolently sitting in at lunch counters and willingly
going to jail for conscience' sake. One day the South will know
that when these disinherited children of God sat down at lunch
counters, they were in reality standing up for what is best
in the American dream and for the most sacred values in our
Judaeo Christian heritage, thereby bringing our nation back
to those great wells of democracy which were dug deep by the
founding fathers in their formulation of the Constitution and
the Declaration of Independence.
Never before have I written so long a letter.
I'm afraid it is much too long to take your precious time. I
can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had
been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else can one
do when he is alone in a narrow jail cell, other than write
long letters, think long thoughts and pray long prayers?
If I have said anything in this letter that
overstates the truth and indicates an unreasonable impatience,
I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything that understates
the truth and indicates my having a patience that allows me
to settle for anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive
I hope this letter finds you strong in the
faith. I also hope that circumstances will soon make it possible
for me to meet each of you, not as an integrationist or a civil-rights
leader but as a fellow clergyman and a Christian brother. Let
us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon
pass away and the deep fog of misunderstanding will be lifted
from our fear drenched communities, and in some not too distant
tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine
over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.
Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,
King, Martin Luther Jr.