Religion and Civil Rights Movement

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Religion and Civil Rights Movement

Fall 2014

Instructor: Professor Donaldson

Class Meeting Times: On-line/Asynchronous

Office Hours: (by appointment)

Skype: ajasky7

Pre-Module: Explanation and Expectation for Course Material and Syllabus Overview (August 25th)
Course Description:

This Course will examine the African American Civil Rights Movement from the 1950s through the 1990s. We will also examine some of the historical events that made a Civil Rights Movement necessary for African Americans to secure a modicum of equal rights and fair play. We will investigate the men and women who were both leaders and followers and the organizations they formed. The Civil Rights Movement has been hailed as the most successful social movement in American History. It was a Movement that transformed the American South with its racial apartheid systems of government and institutions into a more racially equitable society offering some of the benefits of American life to its African American citizens and other persons of color who chose to live in this part of the United States. It also transformed this whole nation as institutional racism and a racial caste system operated in the North as well as in the South. We will explore the role of Religion in this African American led Movement, which galvanized people of all races in the effort to make this nation truly one of liberty and justice for ALL. Lastly , we will raise questions about the impact religion had on the decision to use violence or non-violence for freedom? . Did religion play a role in the decision to use weapons during the Civil Rights Movement? What is religion? What is agnosticism? What is atheism? How did the religious songs inspire and motivate people from every background?

Course Objectives:

1. To provide a basic introduction to African American socio-cultural history

2. To provide a brief introduction to the historical development of African American Studies, the field’s contemporary theories, and contemporary issues relevant to African Americans

3. To provide a multi-disciplinary approach to the study of African American experiences

4. To promote creative, self-directed learning through the research process
Required Course Materials: Available at: University of Florida Bookstore
Required Texts for this Class

Required texts will available at the UF Bookstore and perhaps others here in town.  You may want to purchase your books on line as they are much cheaper even than the used books at the book store.

1) The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement: Black Communities Organizing for Change, by Aldon D. Morris, New York, The Free Press, 1984, ISBN 0-02-922130-7 pbk.

2) In Struggle: SNCC & The Black Awakening of the 1960s, by Claiborne Carson, Cambridge: Harvard U.P. ISBN: 0-674447271 pbk.

3) Eyes On The Prize Civil Rights Reader: Documents, Speeches, And First Hand Accounts From the Black Freedom Struggle 1954-1990, General Editors: Clayborne Carson, David J. Garrow, Gerald Gill, Vincent Harding & Darlene Clark Hine, Penguin Books, 1991, ISBN 978-0-14-0155403-0 pbk.  [We will read some material from this book that will be scanned and e-mailed.]

Recommended Texts that we will read chapters of:

4) Sisters In The Struggle: African Women in the Civil Rights – Black Power Movement by V. P. Franklin & Bettye Collier-Thomas, N. Y.: New York University Press, 2001. ISBN 0-8147-1603-2 pbk.

5) Waiting ‘Til The Midnight Hour: A Narrative History of Black Power in America, by Peniel E. Joseph, N.Y.  Henry Holt & Company, 2006. ISBN 0-8050-8335-9 pbk .

6) I’ve Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, by Charles Payne, Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1996 and 2007,  ISBN-10: 0520251768 | ISBN-13: 978-0520251762 | Edition: 2nd

Class Schedule-Come to class prepared to discuss and critically engage with each reading that is assigned for that date.
Module 1: Introduction: Religion and Civil Rights Movement (2 weeks- Aug 26th -Sept 8th)

Week 1 (Aug 25-29) Class Introductions. Review and Discuss syllabus and class objectives. Short assignment assigned. Please refer to section I of “Assignment Details” of the syllabus for this assignment. Religion and Civil Rights Syllabus.

Discussion Board
Week 2 (Sep 2-5) Introduction: Reading of Chapter 1 of Class, Race, & The Civil Rights Movement, “The Political Economy of Southern Racism,” pp. 18-58. This reading will be sent as a pdf to the class via our Class List serve.  Please download and either print out or save on your computer, tablet or other reading device  

Discussion Board

(Week 3) Introduction Paper due September 8th by 5:00 p.m.
Watch Module #1
Module 2: Black Church and Pursuit of Freedom (2 weeks-Sept 8th-Sept 22nd)

Week 3 (Sep 9- 12th) Reading from Slavery By Another Name, Introduction: “The Bricks We Stand On,” pp.1-12 & Chapter 2, “An Industrial Slavery,” pp. 39-58. This reading will be sent as a pdf to the class via our Class List serve.  Please download and either print out or save on your computer, tablet or other reader that you will bring to class. View a segment of the Film, “Slavery By Another Name” and discussion.

Discussion Board
Week 4 (Sep 15-19th) Readings from our required text: The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, Introduction, pp. ix-xiv & Chapter 1, “Domination, Church and the NAACP,” pp. 1-16 & Chapter 2, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement,  “Beginnings and Confrontations,” pp.17-39.

Discussion Board
(Week 5) Sept 22nd Dr. Vincent Harding’s Essay, “We The People: The Long Journey Toward A More Perfect Union” from Eyes On The Prize Civil Rights Reader, pp. 1-35, this reading will be sent as a pdf for you to download to your computer, tablets or other readers.

Discussion Board
Watch Module #2
Module 3: Black Church: Center for Black Politics (2 weeks-Sept 22nd-Oct 3rd)

Black faith and politics have always shared a common bond.  After slavery, the church became the most important institution for black people in America. Blacks were excluded from every economic, social, and political institution in American life. Therefore black churches were community centers for black refuge.  Prior to the abolition of slavery free black and slaves attended white churches that treated them as second class congregates. As result black people established their own places of worship.

The black church tradition impacted the life of blacks in three main ways. The church was a place of Worship, Politics, and Education (School).



“[Richard] Allen’s inspiration ultimately took the forms of Bethel African Church, founded in 1794, and the African Methodist Episcopal denomination, established in 1799. As much as it can be dated to anything, the emergence of a formal African-American Christianity can be dated to Allen’s twin creations.”

-Samuel G. Freeman, New York Times, 2010

Northern white missionaries such as American Missionary Association were not fond of illiterate black preachers who captivated black congregates with passionate oratory performance. In black worship services, where call and response was/is pervasive, a pastor calls out to his congregants to engage and captivate its audience. For example:

Pastor: Can I get an Amen?

Audience: Amen

Pastor: Raise your hands and give Him praise! or Give Him Glory.

Audience: Raises hands and screams

Pastor: Say neighbor

Audience: Neighbor

For slaves singing served as a tool for uplifting spirits and creating a sense of collectiveness among other bondsmen.

Hoe emma Hoe

Black churches were more than places of worship. For instance anti-slavery societies met in churches. The black church tradition was the only institute available for black solidarity and collectiveness. Black spirituals were used to motivate slaves during slavery and the spirit of those songs continued after the war as black churches entered the political realm. As a matter of fact the first black U.S. Senator Hiram Revels was an educator and minister of the African Methodist Episcopal Church before he was elected in 1870.

AME Zion church founded in response the discrimination in white Methodist churches as early as 1800

Over 100 years later Martin Luther King Jr still observed “11:00 a.m.  Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.”

As mentioned black churches were community centers for political activity. As a result black churches suspected of political activity were burned and its leadership persecuted. During the Civil Rights era nothing much changed.  For instance:

September 15, 1963 · Birmingham, Alabama

Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair, Carole Robertson and Cynthia Wesley were getting ready for church services when a bomb exploded at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing all four of the school-age girls. The church had been a center for civil rights meetings and marches.

Singing Songs (Spirituals) combined with the Call and Response tradition within the black church augmented the spiritual and solidarity of the Civil Rights movements.

Civil Rights Call and Response Song

How was this political?

Songs and call and response was used to motivate Civil Rights workers to register black voters in the midst of turmoil and violence. Similar to the abolition movement, leaders of the church were persecuted for housing freedom movements.

“From 1867 to 1877, following the Civil War, blacks had voting rights in the former Confederate states. Numerous black officials won election to Congress during that period. With the demise of Reconstruction, however, a combination of legal and illegal devices effectively canceled black suffrage throughout most of the South, where the black population was concentrated. Thereafter, a handful of blacks held minor offices in communities with large black populations, but none was elected to national or state offices.”


Bethel AME Church, the first church founded in Philadelphia, has a community outreach program called P.O.W.E.R. (Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower, and Rebuild). Mother Bethel’s P.O.W.E.R. is taking the lead on issues affecting the African American community such as voter registration, poorly performing schools, lack of community youth services, lack of support for ex-offenders, and unemployment

Week 5 Sept 23-26th Readings from Chapter 3, The Origins of the Civil Right Movement, “Movement Centers:  MIA, ICC, And ACMHR,” pp. 40-76

Discussion Board
Week 6 Sept 29-Oct 3rd  Sept Readings from Chapter 4, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, “The SCLC: The Decentralized Political Arm of the Black Church,” pp.77- 99 & Chapter 5, “The SCLC’s Crusade for Citizenship,” pp. 100-119.

Discussion Board
*Midterm due on Oct 10th by 5:00 p.m.
Watch Module #3
Module 4: Reconstruction, Jurisprudence, Religion and Nationalism (2 weeks-Oct 6th-Oct 10th)
Week 7 Oct 6th Readings from Chapter 6, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, “Organization Relationships: The SCLC, The NAACP, And Core,” pp. 120-138 & Chapter 7, “Movement Halfway Houses,” pp. 139-173. View Section One of Documentary: Eyes On The Prize.

Discussion Board
Watch Module #4
Module 5: New Negro Renaissance and Cultural Movement (Module readings) (2 weeks-October 13th-Oct 27th)

National Association for the Advancement of Color People(NAACP)- Was founded on February 12, 1909 by a diverse group composed of W. E. B. Du Bois, Ida B. Wells, and white Jewish sympathizers and philanthropists. It was founded as an anti-lynching organization. By 1920 NAACP legal program was responsible of landmark victory 1954 Brown v. Board of Education to desegregate schools.

Congress Of Racial Equality (CORE)- was founded in Chicago in March 1942. On May 4, 1961, Freedom Riders journeyed through the deep South to test segregated bus terminals as well. This non-violent strategy became known as the Freedom Rides as the group of black and white students were met with violence.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)- Was founded in February 1957 after the success of the 1955 Montgomery Boycott. Led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr  SCLC was established as an organization of affiliate branches, many were either individual churches or community organizations such as the Montgomery Improvement Association(MIA) and Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights (ACMHR) see Origins Chapter 3. SCLC structure differed from the NAACP and CORE who recruited individuals and formed them into local chapters

Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)- On April 15-17, 1960, Ella Baker and student delegates gathered at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC to create SNCC. It was more militant organization that engaged in more direct protest rather than indirection action. Conservative organizations such as NAACP and SCLC opposed some of their radical approaches.


 Martin Luther King, Jr. (January 15, 1929 – April 4, 1968): the chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) was a Baptist minister, activist, and the most famous leader of the Civil Rights Movement. King won the Nobel Peace Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom before his assassination in 1968.


 James Farmer (January 12, 1920 – July 9, 1999): In 1942 Farmer founded the Congress of Racial Equality or CORE, a pacifist organization dedicated to achieving racial harmony and equality through nonviolence, and stayed active in the Civil Rights Movement through the 1950s and 1960s.


John Lewis (born February 21, 1940): Became a leader in the American Civil Rights Movement as president of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He represented SNCC with a speech at the August 28, 1963 March on Washington.


A. Philip Randolph (April 15, 1889 – May 16, 1979) was a socialist in the labor movement and the U.S. civil rights movement. In 1925, Randolph organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.


Roy Wilkins (August 30, 1901 – September 8, 1981) was a prominent civil rights activist in the United States from the 1930s to the 1970s. In 1955, Wilkins was named executive director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Week 8 Oct 14- 17th  Readings from Chapter 8, The Origins of the Civil Rights Movement, “ Internal Organization And Direct Action,” pp. 174 - 194 & Chapter 3, Sisters In the Struggle, “The Roots of Ella Baker’s Political Passions,” pp. 42-58.

Discussion Board
Week  9 Oct 21- 24th Readings from our required text, In Struggle SNCC and the Black Awakenings of the60s, Part One, Coming Together, Chapters 1 through 4, pp.  9 - 55.

Discussion Board
Watch Module #5
** Quiz October 26th
Module 6: Political and Radical Social Movements (3 weeks-Oct 27th-Nov 17th)

SNCC’s original purpose (agenda) was not clear at its founding (April 1960), but several students possessed a sense of purpose well before the inaugural meeting at Shaw University under the guidance of Ella Baker.   It is critical to note the level of organized activity and preparation that existed before SNCC was created. The personalities of the original members set the tone for its culture. SNCC engaged in two tactics to fight Jim Crow: training workshops and direct action. However, I prefer to distinguish the two into two general categories: pre-direct activity and direct activity. Pre-direct activity included, but were not limited to workshops (trainings) led by non-violent/Ghandhian expert and clergyman James Lawson. The pre-action was critical to the development of the movement.  

Carson’s In the Struggle accredits the Waveland conference of 1964 as the beginning of the end of the SNCC “community”

However, Carson identifies three main reasons:

1.)   James Foreman a devout fundraiser argued for a centralized organization of SNCC,

2.)   Bob Moses concern with racial tension between white and black members, and

3.)   Finally the lack of a unified goals/projects moving forward.

All played a part in the decline of SNCC activism.

Even though, Carson notes that northern whites were eventually asked to leave the organization in attempt to resolve one of the three problems facing the organization, perhaps the black SNCC members feared the democratic relationship (community) was in jeopardy of being usurped by white outsiders.

Ultimately the lack of goal oriented programs and projects were replaced by rhetoric in the movement. There was not consensus on a vision once a few nominal successes were achieved (i.e. 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voters Rights Act). Again, the angry and bold rhetoric of Malcolm X and later on Stokley Carmichael contradicted the non-violent attitudes and trainings that rooted out of Nashville. It was an alternative to a conflicted organization uncertain of any definite step forward other than voter registration and demonstrations

According to Carson SNCC was the paternal father of Black Power, ERAP, and the feminist movement. SNCC could be accredited for influencing SDS to take direct action in the cause. There is no doubt SNCC set the fire but the never finished the burn.
Week 10 Oct 28-31st In Struggle SNCC and The Black Awakenings of the 60s, Part One, Coming Together Cont’d,  Chapters, 5 & 6 pp. 56-95.   View Section Three of documentary, Eyes on the Prize.

Discussion Board
Week 11 Nov 3-7th Readings from In Struggle SNCC and The Black Awakenings of the 60s, Chapter 7, & 8, pp. 83 – 110.

Discussion Board
Week 12 Nov 10-14th- Readings from In Struggle SNCC and The Black Awakenings of the 60s Chapter 9 &10

Discussion Board
*Reaction Paper #2 due on November 17th by 5:00 p.m.
Watch Module #6
Module 7: due on November by 5:00 p.m.

Week 14 Nov 18-21st In Struggle SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 60s, Chapter 13,  pp. 191-214. View Section Five of Documentary, Eye On The Prize.

Discussion Board
Watch Module #7
Thanksgiving Holiday- November 27th - December 1st
Assignments at a Glance: Late Assignments Will NOT be accepted. Each assignment is explained in the “Assignment Details” section.
1 Introduction & academics paper (2 pg.) 9/8

2 Midterm Exam 10/10

3 Quiz (3)

#1- 9/21

#2- 10/26

#3- 11/21

4 Reaction Paper - 11/17

5 Final Exam 12/5

6 Class Participation/Discussion Questions TOTAL= Collective Daily (see dates on due sheet)
Assignment Details:
Introduction & academics paper (2 pgs.)

Write a 1 page paper introducing your academic interests and personal background that inspire your academic interest


1 Reaction Paper

In the 3-4 pages (double-spaced 2000 words MAX) reaction paper discuss the main theses of the readings and examine the evidence that the authors use to support their arguments. Your discussion should include an analysis of how these articles shape our understanding of race, gender, and the environment. Your papers should demonstrate a clear, concise and logically-reasoned analysis. Strong responses also engage theoretical standpoints in the discussion of historical events.

Quiz- The objective sections does not merely demand a recall of names, dates and events. The short and long (2-3 paragraphs) answer sections are subjective. Your responses should demonstrate a clear, concise and logically-reasoned analysis. Strong responses for the long answer sections are comprised of a combination of theory, historical events. Strong responses also exemplify how the theory explains the historical events.
Mid-term exam

(Format: Section 1-Terms, Historical Figures, Dates, literary critique; Section 2 Short Answer questions; Section 3 Long Answer questions). The mid-term exam is designed to evaluate your knowledge and understanding of the readings for this course and it will also evaluate how well you engage with the material. This exam is both objective and subjective. The objective sections merely demand a recall of names, dates and events. The short and long answer sections are subjective. Your responses should demonstrate a clear, concise and logically-reasoned analysis. Strong responses for the long answer sections are comprised of a combination of theory, historical events. Strong responses also exemplify how the theory explains the historical events.

Online Discussion Board facilitation

Each student must sign up to lead a discussion forum on the discussion board. Each discussion leader will post 2-3 paragraphs on the readings and should come up with 2-3 questions to post on the discussion board. The discussion leader will moderate the discussion until 12 a.m. and will respond to fellow classmates’ responses. Questions should be posted by 5 p.m. on the day that the student signed up to lead discussion.

Online Class Participation/Discussion Board Response to Questions

Students not leading the discussion should write a 1-2 paragraph response to 1-2 of the questions posted in the discussion forum. The responses should be completed by 5 p.m. the following day that the questions were originally posted. The responses should include citations from the readings and should demonstrate a clear and logical analysis to the questions posted. Please follow the same etiquette of collegial respect to other fellow students when responding to questions. Students should use the same writing guidelines that are appropriate for college papers. Thus, please refrain from any slang or colloquial language in your responses.

There is a total of 25 possible participation points.
Final Exam 50 points

December 5, 2014

Your Grade Will Be Based On:
Class Participation 15%

Class Facilitator 15%

Short Paper 1 15%

Short Paper 2 15%

Mid-term Exam 20%

Final Exam 20%

Grading Scale:
94-100 A 90-93 A- 87-89 B+ 84-86 B 80-83 B- 77-79 C+

74-76 C 70-73 C- 67-69 D+ 64-66 D 60-63 D- Below 60 E

A C- will not be a qualifying grade for major, minor, Gen Ed, Gordon Rule or College Basic Distribution credit.

Disabilities Statement:

Students requiring accommodations must first register with the Dean of Student’s office, Disability Resource Center. The Dean of Student’s office will provide documentation, which the student will then give to the instructor. For more information, see HTTP://  

Academic Dishonesty:

Academic dishonesty includes plagiarism and cheating on examinations.  The penalty for cheating is a grade of 0 on the exam.  In addition, the dean of student's office may choose to administer a harsher punishment such as a temporary suspension from this class or a permanent expulsion from the university.

Missed Work:

My policy for missed work and make-up exams is consistent with the university’s policies that can be found at

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