Cover image for A stone of hope : prophetic religion and the death of Jim Crow
A stone of hope : prophetic religion and the death of Jim Crow
Chappell, David L.
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Publication Information:
Chapel Hill : University of North Carolina Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
344 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm
Chapter 1: Hungry liberals: their sense that something was missing -- Chapter 2: Recovering optimists -- Chapter 3: The prophetic ideas that made civil rights move -- Chapter 4: Prophetic Christian realism and the 1960s generation -- Chapter 5: The civil rights movement as a religious revival -- Chapter 6: Broken churches, broken race: white southern religious leadership and the decline of white supremacy -- Chapter 7: Pulpit versus Pew -- Chapter 8: Segregationist thought in crisis: what the movement was up against.
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E185.61 .C5435 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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The civil rights movement was arguably the most successful social movement in American history. In a provocative new assessment of its success, David Chappell argues that the story of civil rights is not a story of the ultimate triumph of liberal ideas after decades of gradual progress. Rather, it is a story of the power of religious tradition.

Chappell reconsiders the intellectual roots of civil rights reform, showing how northern liberals' faith in the power of human reason to overcome prejudice was at odds with the movement's goal of immediate change. Even when liberals sincerely wanted change, they recognized that they could not necessarily inspire others to unite and fight for it. But the prophetic tradition of the Old Testament--sometimes translated into secular language--drove African American activists to unprecedented solidarity and self-sacrifice. Martin Luther King Jr., Fannie Lou Hamer, James Lawson, Modjeska Simkins, and other black leaders believed, as the Hebrew prophets believed, that they had to stand apart from society and instigate dramatic changes to force an unwilling world to abandon its sinful ways. Their impassioned campaign to stamp out "the sin of segregation" brought the vitality of a religious revival to their cause. Meanwhile, segregationists found little support within their white southern religious denominations. Although segregationists outvoted and outgunned black integrationists, the segregationists lost, Chappell concludes, largely because they did not have a religious commitment to their cause.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that the South could hew "a stone of hope" from segregation's "mountain of despair." This book explores the role that religion played in shaping that hope. In a brilliant chapter on the grassroots character of the civil rights cause, Chappell argues that the movement could be considered less a political protest with religious dimensions than a religious revival with political and social dimensions. The civil rights struggle had many of the elements of revival-miracle stories, mass religious enthusiasm, music, "conversion" experiences, even messianic expectations. Chappell writes engagingly, drawing an important revisionist portrait of the crucial role of religion in defeating Jim Crow. (Jan. 26) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The Civil Rights Movement had a profound impact on American society, causing the collapse of the system of legalized segregation and disenfranchisement of blacks in the Southern states. Chappell (history, Univ. of Arkansas) explores the dynamics that allowed the movement to succeed and to do so, in contrast to the Civil War, with amazingly little death and violence. At the center of the movement was a religious tradition inspired by the Hebrew prophets and informed by the realism of Reinhold Niebuhr. This was a tradition that had the power to move people to commitment, sacrifice, and self-discipline, power that liberal optimism lacked, even as segregationists' rhetoric imploded. Chappell's meticulously researched yet engaging narrative gives the religious aspects of the movement their well-deserved due. At the same time, he places the account in a richly textured tapestry of American culture and intellectual life. This nuanced, compellingly argued book makes sense of the contingent factors that conspired to bring the movement success and explains why it is so difficult to marshal those dynamics for further social change. It belongs in every library.-Steve Young, McHenry Cty. Coll., Crystal Lake, IL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Chappell (Univ. of Arkansas) evaluates the Civil Rights Movement from both sides through the lens of religion and suggests that its success was almost inevitable. The author argues that there was a major gulf between the "liberal" white supporters of the movement, such as Gunnar Myrdal and Arthur Schlesinger, who believed in progress and the efficacy of secular institutions, and black leaders themselves, such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Fannie Lou Hamer, who were understandably skeptical that social justice could be achieved on earth. Moreover, Chappell suggests that the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement drew very effectively on religion while their segregationist enemies failed to gain strength and support through religion. Chappell places the Civil Rights Movement in the larger context of US history, comparing it to the First and Second Great Awakenings. L. Nelson Bell, leader of the conservative southern Presbyterians, for example, personally supported "voluntary" segregation, but openly argued that segregation was not endorsed in the Bible. In the end, the opponents of civil rights "were not so much crushed as they were flummoxed." This study opens a rich new pathway to the way we understand the Civil Rights Movement. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels and libraries. S. L. Recken University of Arkansas at Little Rock

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Hungry Liberals: Their Sense That Something Was Missing
Chapter 2 Recovering Optimists
Chapter 3 The Prophetic Ideas That Made Civil Rights Move
Chapter 4 Prophetic Christian Realism and the 1960s Generation
Chapter 5 The Civil Rights Movement as a Religious Revival
Chapter 6 Broken Churches, Broken Race: White Southern Religious Leadership and the Decline of White Supremacy
Chapter 7 Pulpit versus Pew
Chapter 8 Segregationist Thought in Crisis: What the Movement Was Up Against Conclusion. Gamaliel, Caesar, and Us
Appendix. A Philosophical Note on Historical Explanation
Archival and Manuscript Sources
Bibliographical Essay