Religion, race, and resistance: White evangelicals and the dilemma of integration in South Carolina, 1950-1975
Hawkins, J. Russell
Boles, John B.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation contends that religion played a critical role in explaining why and how white South Carolinians decided to resist changes in the racial caste system of their society during the middle decades of the last century. As early as 1950 with the first stirrings of desegregation occurring in their state, white evangelicals in the Palmetto State began making appeals to both the Bible and the natural world to derive a theology that emphasized the divine mandate for racial segregation. In touting this "segregationist folk theology," religious white southerners proved willing and able participants in the political massive resistance movement that attempted to thwart racial reforms initiated by civil rights demonstrations, court rulings, and federal legislation in the South from the mid 1950s to the mid 1960s. Just as political massive resistance moved from explicitly racist language to coded appeals to racial prejudice in the period after 1965, however, so too was transformed resistance that drew upon religious sources for its inspiration. During the period from the mid 1960s to the mid 1970s white evangelicals largely abandoned the biblical proof-texts that ostensibly revealed divine favor for racial segregation and turned instead to a rhetoric of individualism and colorblindness to fight against attempts to desegregate southern churches and schools. Tracking how white evangelicals' biblical defense of segregation changed over time to a rhetoric of colorblind individualism and examining the particular ways this transition affected southern religion and society by the mid 1970s is this dissertation's central focus.
Theology; American history; Political science; Sociology; Social structure