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October 24, 2003
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March 17, 2021
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Episcopalians and Race

Civil War to Civil Rights

Meeting at an African American college in North Carolina in 1959, a group of black and white Episcopalians organized the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity and pledged to oppose all distinctions based on race, ethnicity, and social class. They adopted a motto derived from Psalm 133: ""Behold, how good and joyful a thing it is, for brethren to dwell together in unity!"" Though the spiritual intentions of these individuals were positive, the reality of the association between blacks and whites in the church was much more complicated. Episcopalians and Race examines the often ambivalent relationship between black communities and the predominantly white leadership of the Episcopal Church since the Civil War. Paying special attention to the 1950s and 60s, Gardiner Shattuck analyzes the impact of the civil rights movement on church life, especially in southern states. He discusses the Church's lofty goals—exemplified by the Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity—and ignoble practices and attitudes, such as the failure to recognize the role of black clergy and laity within the denomination. The efforts of mainline Protestant denominations were critically important in the struggle for civil rights, and Episcopalians expended a great deal of time and resources in engaging in the quest for racial equality and strengthening the missionary outreach to African Americans in the South. Shattuck offers an insider's history of Episcopalians' efforts, both successful and unsuccessful, to come to terms with race and racism since the Civil War.


"A model of how good this kind of history can be when it is well researched and centers on the difficult choices faced and made by people who share institutional and faith commitments in settings that call those commitments into question."—American Historical Review

"A well-documented and riveting story of how racism in Episcopalianism—despite having been stripped of some of its pre-1960s overt vicious expressions—still persists with great energy and pervasiveness today."—Anglican and Episcopal History

"Describes the historical, cultural and ideological systems within which the black struggle for recognition took place. . . . Enables twenty-first-century Episcopalians to better appreciate the role that race has played and continues to play in our common life."—Anglican Theological Review

"Will be of considerable benefit to scholars, students, church members of all denominations, and anyone concerned with issues of racial justice in the American context."—Choice

"An excellent piece of history-making, in which we can hear the voices of our leaders over the past century and a half struggling with all the complexities of one of the great moral issues of American history."—Christ Church Communicator

"A significant and comprehensive history of African-Americans and their quest for recognition in the Episcopal Church."—Christian Century

"Chronicles the struggles of leaders and ordinary Episcopalians as they sought to topple Jim Crow and finally overcome the past. . . . Somber and painful, but essential reading."—Covenant

"Offers new information on individuals, events, and issues and is uncompromisingly honest in his judgments."—Episcopal Life

"A definitive history of a controversial era in the life of the Episcopal Church—one with continuing lessons for present-day Episcopalians facing social change."—Episcopal Life

"His analysis of the Episcopal Church's stance on racial issues will become the standard one."—Georgia Historical Quarterly

"An extremely well researched institutional history of race relations within the Episcopal Church."—History

"A major contribution both to the history of the Church's involvement in the tumultuous events of the 1960s and to the recent historical convolutions of race relations in the U.S."—James Findlay

"Should become an indispensable entry on the reading list of everyone interested in race relations and religion in the postbellum South."—John B. Boles, series editor

"Race relations have been and remain a major issue in the U.S., influenced in critical ways, for good or ill, by religious institutions. Shattuck presents a narrative of the Episcopal Church's participation in the civil rights movement, a participation involving heroism and pain, hypocrisy, and prophetic witness."—John Booty

"Superb. . . . The first comprehensive history of modern race relations within the Episcopal Church and, as such, a model of its kind."—Journal of American History

"This account is eminently readable, and while carefully documented, retains a light touch."—Journal of Religious History

"An invigorating counterpoint to the history of 'race' in modern America. . . . An essential addition to the history of race and the modern South."—Journal of Southern History

"Details endless facets of the struggles that existed within the church."—Library Journal

"The prowess of this book is the actual naming process, i.e., the particularity of who, what, where, and when, in which one learns a great deal about how then-unknown but now more famous Americans engaged race relations in the Episcopal Church."—Living Church

"A sobering story, told well by one who obviously shares the pain and hope that the Episcopal encounter with race has produced."—Mississippi Quarterly

"Those who care about issues of race in the Christian community or about the Episcopalians, and especially those who care about both, will want to read this book."—Nevertheless

"This clear chronicle of the structural ways in which white Episcopalians have attempted to create unity in Christ—against the reluctance of powerful whites—proceeds by making clear the preconceptions and ways of thinking that crippled even the best efforts of whites."—North Carolina Historical Review

"Examines the efforts of reformers dedicated to the principle of bi-racial unity and exposes the hypocrisy of one of the most powerful mainline churches in the matter of racial inclusion."—Religious Studies Review

"Shattuck has rendered an important service in this excellent account with a stark reminder that history is different from the present; however, the present cannot be understood without taking account of how that history 'grounds' our efforts to make a new and different future."—The Historiographer

"A comprehensive and insightful retelling of a history both painful and poignant. . . . This is one to read, give to a friend and buy again. A triumph."—The Living Church

9780813190648 : episcopalians-and-race-shattuck
Paperback / softback
328 Pages
$35.00 USD
9780813160221 : episcopalians-and-race-shattuck
Electronic book text
328 Pages
$35.00 USD

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