Saints in the Struggle: Church of God in Christ Activists in the Memphis Civil Rights Movement, 1954-1968

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Mason Temple, the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), looms large in the history of the Civil Rights Movement because of its connection to the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who delivered his last sermon there during the Sanitation Workers Strike on April 3, 1968. This book highlights the unsung contributions local activists from the COGIC made to the historic strike and to the broader civil rights struggle in Memphis. It troubles the rigid otherworldly versus this-worldly binary that has inaccurately framed black religious activism and bolstered the view that saints' theology influenced their detachment from the civil rights struggle. It explores the Memphis Movement from the angle of activist saints and describes their involvements in civil rights organizations such as the Ministers and Citizens League, the Memphis Branch of the NAACP, and the Community on the Move for Equality. Ultimately, analysis of Memphis saints' activism reveals local grassroots activists' vigorous commitment to working to galvanize and mobilize black pastors and churches to work collaboratively to advance the freedom struggle, including through coordinating voter registration drives, aiding desegregation efforts, and assisting sanitation workers in their struggle for economic justice. This work provides a historical blueprint and a source of inspiration for fostering collective activism among denominationally diverse black churches in the 21 st century.

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Lexington Books
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