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A Solid Black Hyphen: Race, Religion, Identity, and the Black Power Activism of Gayraud S. Wilmore

dc.contributor.advisorHudnut-Beumler, James D
dc.creatorClark, Douglas H. Brown 2020
dc.description.abstractIn 1963 the United Presbyterian Church appointed black minister Gayraud S. Wilmore as head of its new racial justice commission. In that post, as the top racial justice official for one of the largest, wealthiest, most influential majority-white mainline Protestant denominations at the time, Wilmore soon became a fervent advocate for Black Power. In 1966 he co-founded the radical National Conference of Black Churchmen, and over the next several years he led such clergy in developing Black Theology. Amid the 1969 promulgation of the Black Manifesto and its demands for reparations from majority-white U.S. religious institutions, Wilmore mediated between secular black radicals and white Protestants. In these events, Wilmore acted as a “solid black hyphen” - a link between white and black communities, but one whose strongest commitments were to black liberation. Wilmore also acted as a “pillar of cloud and fire” - a leader who was sometimes cautious and “masked,” and at other times openly militant. This study traces the development of a group of black radical mainline clergy, with a focus on Wilmore’s own transition from a “pillar of cloud” into a “pillar of fire” and “solid black hyphen,” over a fifty-year period. Using Wilmore’s life as a central focus, the chapters begin with his religio-racial formation in Philadelphia during the Great Migration. They then move through his service as a “Buffalo Soldier” in Italy, education at Lincoln University, and 1950s experimentation in racial justice activism. Later chapters address Wilmore’s more than a decade of leadership in his denomination’s racial and social justice bureaucracy, culminating in the emergence of Black Theology and the Black Manifesto. The dissertation concludes with an analysis of black Presbyterians’ limited 1970s successes in pressuring their denomination to pay reparations, and to fund the legal defense of Angela Davis. This study blends religious, intellectual, and cultural history, and uses elements of lived religion, microhistory, biography, oral history, and critical race theory, to contribute to the growing scholarly understanding of religion, especially mainline Protestantism, in the Black Power movement.
dc.subjectAfrican American
dc.subjectCivil Rights Movement
dc.subjectBlack Power
dc.subjectBlack Theology
dc.subjectmainline Protestantism
dc.titleA Solid Black Hyphen: Race, Religion, Identity, and the Black Power Activism of Gayraud S. Wilmore
dc.type.materialtext University Graduate School

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