The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation

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Overview


On Palm Sunday 1964, at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, a group of black and white students began a "kneel-in" to protest the church's policy of segregation, a protest that would continue in one form or another for more than a year and eventually force the church to open its doors to black worshippers.

In The Last Segregated Hour, Stephen Haynes tells the story of this dramatic yet little studied tactic which was the strategy of choice for bringing attention to ...

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The Last Segregated Hour: The Memphis Kneel-Ins and the Campaign for Southern Church Desegregation

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Overview


On Palm Sunday 1964, at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, a group of black and white students began a "kneel-in" to protest the church's policy of segregation, a protest that would continue in one form or another for more than a year and eventually force the church to open its doors to black worshippers.

In The Last Segregated Hour, Stephen Haynes tells the story of this dramatic yet little studied tactic which was the strategy of choice for bringing attention to segregationist policies in Southern churches. "Kneel-ins" involved surprise visits to targeted churches, usually during Easter season, and often resulted in physical standoffs with resistant church people. The spectacle of kneeling worshippers barred from entering churches made for a powerful image that invited both local and national media attention. The Memphis kneel-ins of 1964-65 were unique in that the protesters included white students from the local Presbyterian college (Southwestern, now Rhodes). And because the protesting students presented themselves in groups that were "mixed" by race and gender, white church members saw the visitations as a hostile provocation and responded with unprecedented efforts to end them. But when Church officials pressured Southwestern president Peyton Rhodes to "call off" his students or risk financial reprisals, he responded that "Southwestern is not for sale."

Drawing on a wide range of sources, including extensive interviews with the students who led the kneel-ins, Haynes tells an inspiring story that will appeal not only to scholars of religion and history, but also to pastors and church people concerned about fostering racially diverse congregations.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A well-researched analysis of a church desegregation campaign in Memphis... As a thorough examination into local history, this work will nevertheless leave readers questioning its larger significance... Haynes's book provides a fitting entryway into a feature of the movement that is ripe for further analysis." --The Journal of American History

"Haynes's work is an important intervention... This complicated history, and the tangled memories that persist in the present, deserve the nuanced attention Haynes gives to them... The Last Segregated Hour remains an eminently accessible book due to its readability and clear prose. Speaking to the fact that religion remains culturally meaningful and historically significant, Haynes skillfully uncovers an overlooked history of kneel-ins." --The Marginalia Review of Books

"Readers will learn much from this rich study of how grassroots historical actors produced an intriguing history that continues to shape the face of American Christianity today." --CHOICE

"In this courageous book, Stephen Haynes rejuvenates the great tradition of American public theology. Martin Luther King Jr. once asked of the white churches in the segregated South, 'Who is the God they worship?' but the question confounded King until his death. In The Last Segregated Hour, Stephen Haynes, a scholar of religion living in Memphis, pursues King's haunting words by telling the story of the 1960-65 'kneel-in' campaigns. Like the best storytellers, Haynes attends to the intricacy of character and plot, reveals hidden motivations and creates an artful effect; and in his hands, a remarkable but untold episode of the American civil rights movement becomes high theological drama. Haynes's book is essential reading for anyone interested in religion, race and the quest for beloved community. What a triumph!"--Charles Marsh, Professor of Religious Studies, University of Virginia

"The Last Segregated Hour is masterful historical scholarship. With insightful attention to detail coupled with superlative storytelling, Haynes presents the rarely discussed drama of modern Church-driven racial oppression and Southern-style peacemaking. It will surely be a classic in American religious history because the story of Memphis is paradigmatic for the whole of the American South. This book will usher in a new era of healing and racial solidarity."--Anthony B. Bradley, author of The Political Economy of Liberation: Thomas Sowell and James Cone on the Black Experience

"The Last Segregated Hour is a rare book where depth of historical insight matches intensity of human emotion. Its account of student-led efforts to desegregate a landmark Memphis church is a model of empathy, balance, spiritual wisdom, institutional savvy, and moving biography. Stephen Haynes has drawn on detailed research to tell a powerful story. Read it, weep, but find reasons for hope as well."--Mark A. Noll, author of God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

"Stephen R. Haynes's The Last Segregated Hour is a fascinating and eye-opening case study that illuminates one of the shadowy recesses of civil rights history. Focusing on the Memphis 'kneel-ins' of 1964-65, Haynes deftly reconstructs the often-overlooked movement to desegregate the white churches of the Jim Crow South. The dramatic stories of courage and resistance that populate this important book demonstrate the complex relationship between religion and social justice, documenting the historic struggle to persuade the region's faith-based institutions to practice what they preach."--Raymond Arsenault, author of Freedom Riders: 1961 and the Struggle for Racial Justice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195395051
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 10/25/2012
  • Pages: 336
  • Sales rank: 956,729
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Haynes is Professor of Religious Studies, Rhodes College, and the author of many books, including Noah's Curse: The Biblical Justification of American Slavery.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Segregation's Last Stronghold
Part I: The Forgotten Protests
Chapter One: "The start of a new movement across the South": The First Kneel-Ins, 1960
Chapter Two: "Christ did not build any racial walls": Church Desegregation Campaigns, 1961-65
Part II: Contexts of a Kneel-in Movement
Chapter Three: "This spectacle of a church with guarded doors": The Memphis Campaign of 1964
Chapter Four: "Like a child that had been unfaithful": A Church-Related College and a College-Related Church
Chapter Five: "A time when the bare souls of men are revealed": Southern Presbyterians Respond
Part III: Memories of a Kneel-In Movement
Chapter Six: "You're going to have to go out there yourself": Church People
Chapter Seven: "Our presence at the church is itself an act of worship": White Visitors
Chapter Eight: "You will only know my motivation when you open the door": Black Visitors
Chapter Nine: "Mama, why don't they just let them in?": Children
Part IV: Aftermath of a Kneel-In Movement
Chapter Ten: "The greatest crisis in the 120-year history of our church": Defiance, Intervention and Schism
Chapter Eleven: "Not the church's advantages, but the city's disadvantages": Wrestling with the Past at Second Presbyterian Church
Chapter Twelve: "A season of prayer and corporate repentance": Wrestling with the Past at Independent Presbyterian Church
Epilogue
Notes
Index

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 2, 2013

    As a journalist and lawyer who reads two books a week, this has

    As a journalist and lawyer who reads two books a week, this has to be in the top ten last yer. It is a continuation of PhD, MDiv, religion


    author and college professor's long
    standing research and writing about race. He documents the Pray in Movement across the Southeast in the early sixties, when integrated worshipsers were barred by police or armed guards. He puts this in context of the largest Presbyterina church in Memphis at he time, then studies it with interviews, documents and the normal paraphenalia of scholarhip.It puts this particular conflict in regional, theologcal, and practical church building focus. A brilliant book,with a couple small errors. Howard M. Romaine

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