From Segregation to Independence: African Americans in Churches of Christ
Crawford, Theodore Wesley
This project is concerned with racism in Churches of Christ. In this dissertation I explore the manner in which African American members of Churches of Christ moved on a trajectory from segregation to independence from whites throughout the 20th century. As a congregational denomination, Churches of Christ lack an official governing body; therefore, they have relied on denominational colleges, journals, and lectureships to mediate their theology. As the most audible voices of the denomination, these entities perpetuated an illusion of racial unity in Churches of Christ by failing to either acknowledge or address the blatant racism of whites. With the advent of the civil rights movement, however, African Americans in mass publicly expressed their resentment to decades of racism. The 20th century ended with each of these two racial factions moving rapidly away from the other toward de facto denominational status. The research from this project helps church historians understand not only the division within Churches of Christ caused by racism, but also the power of unofficial denominational bodies to mask significant division within a radical congregational denomination.