“Our God is Marching On”: James Hudson and the Theological Foundation of the Civil Rights Movement
Rivers, Larry Omar
This dissertation is an intellectual biography of James Hudson (1903-1980), a black minister and philosopher of religion. Standing just over five feet tall with a body that lacked a right arm and weighed less than 140 pounds, Hudson was a small man who became a giant in the mid-twentieth century struggle against Jim Crow. As a college chaplain in the Florida’s capital city, he played an indispensable role in building that community’s civil rights movement. Specifically, Hudson connected Tallahassee to a powerful network of black religious intellectuals that, with his avid participation, built a “freedom curriculum” which systematized a militant ethics of Christian nonviolence. By teaching from this curriculum, he inspired local students and churchgoers to engage in noncooperation against segregation, beginning with a 1956 boycott of Tallahassee’s bus system. The Inter-Civic Council (ICC) Hudson and others founded to coordinate this protest, which followed the lead of similar boycott organizations in Baton Rouge and Montgomery, became an integral part of what sociologist Aldon Moris called the “institutional soil from which the [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] would emerge.” Furthermore, as one of the black Baptist church’s most widely read Personalist philosophers on the eve of the Civil Rights Movement, Hudson laid a critical foundation for Martin Luther King, Jr., another black Personalist, to become the movement’s premier spokesman. This manuscript examines Hudson’s life, with particular emphasis on his thought and praxis. It adds to a small but growing body of literature about the movement’s ideational origins.