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The Role of Religion in the Civil Rights Movements

Faith in many instances has been the fuel that has fed the passionate flame in the fight for freedom. Our American history is replete with examples of people of faith, who have in a defiant manner, broken the vessels of traditional and sacred values in order to serve up revolutionary social change.

It is quite likely that in the background, if not the forefront, of every effort in the quest for justice, there have been people of faith providing support and leadership. In the founding of our nation, we see clear evidence that freedom of religion was interrelated to the desire for independence from Great Britain. The root of independence is respect for others. Therefore, it is quite consistent for those who value their freedom of faith to value freedom in broader areas of life. Those who simply value their freedom of faith with a narrow application and limited view towards others may not fully appreciate the roots of their own faith.

The church was not only the meeting place for the movement in the South, it also was the center of the movement in that it served as the symbol of the movement. That is to say that the church represented the freedom that the movement participants sought. It was a facility in the community beyond the control of the white power structure. It was a place where people could express themselves without reprisal. It was a place where people could speak the truth, where they could sing and even shout. The church was also served as the community bulletin board.