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Soul power: the Black church and the Black Power Movement in Cairo, Illinois, 1969-74

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Title: Soul power: the Black church and the Black Power Movement in Cairo, Illinois, 1969-74
Author(s): Pimblott, Kerry
Director of Research: Lang, Clarence E.; Leff, Mark H.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s): Lang, Clarence E.; Leff, Mark H.
Doctoral Committee Member(s): Barrett, James R.; Cha-Jua, Sundiata K.; Dillard, Angela; Roediger, David R.
Department / Program: History
Discipline: History
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: Ph.D.
Genre: Dissertation
Subject(s): Black Power Movement Cairo, Illinois United Front Black Theology Black Church.
Abstract: While scholarship on the modern Civil Rights Movement has emphasized the centrality of the Black church, popular and scholarly accounts of Black Power portray a movement marked by a profound de-Christianization. Soul Power upends this prevailing narrative, arguing that the Black church played a sustained and pivotal role in the Black Power Movement at its central flashpoint, Cairo, Illinois, a city identified by contemporaries as the site of the nation’s “longest protracted struggle” for racial justice. This dissertation explores how activists working within Cairo’s leading Black Power organization, the United Front, reworked the religious discourses and institutions that had anchored earlier civil rights struggles and provided access to the Black church’s tremendous organizational resources. Seizing upon emergent trends in Black Theology, the United Front developed a distinctive spiritual philosophy that legitimized the organization’s political program and unified movement participants. In turn, prominent Black clergy assisted the United Front in leveraging much needed resources from mainline denominations and ecumenical organizations operating at the state and national level. As support for traditional civil rights organizations waned and faith in the War on Poverty dwindled, this dissertation shows that churches became a significant, albeit overlooked, source of coalitional support for the Black Power Movement. However, as conservative political agendas established their dominance in the early 1970s, this heavy reliance upon church revenues, particularly that of predominantly white denominations, left Black Power organizations acutely vulnerable to state repression and shifting sentiments within the church itself.
Issue Date: 2012-09-18
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2142/34380
Rights Information: Copyright 2012 Kerry Pimblott
Date Available in IDEALS: 2012-09-18
Date Deposited: 2012-08
 

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