Date of Award

2001

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

History

First Advisor

Kathleen M. Brown

Second Advisor

Thomas Sugrue

Abstract

"'To End This Day of Strife': Churchwomen and the Campaign for Integration, 1920-1970," explores the development and significance of a race relations agenda within a national interdenominational and interracial organization of women, known today as Church Women United (CWU). This project examines the role the organization played in the expansion of a moral language of race that reached across region, race and denomination. The keys to this expansion were twofold: First, the participation of African American churchwomen in the organization from its beginnings stimulated dialogue and action; and second, the missionary legacy of white churchwomen, which, despite its initial imperialist assumptions, introduced churchwomen to a religious idiom and intellectual experience that embraced cultural diversity. Black churchwomen pursued membership in CWU as a potential avenue to a more fully integrated American society. As they did, they challenged white churchwomen to take moral responsibility for race relations and supplanted the prominent black stereotypes held by white America.

Using primarily the organization's national papers housed at the General Commission on Archives and History at Drew University, Madison, New Jersey, this project contributes to recent scholarship on the civil rights movement. It explores the more intimate aspects of its unknown players and expands the periodization of the struggle as well as the limited literature on women's role in the movement. "To End this Day of Strife" examines the multiple interpretations of racial integration for various groups of citizens. In particular, it considers the moments when white and African American churchwomen's pursuit of racial integration conflicted and coalesced with each other. The participation by CWU in the antecedents of as well as what is considered the actual civil rights movement provides a valuable context to understand better the place of religion in twentieth century American history.

Comments

This dissertation was received through the American Civilization department, which no longer exists.

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