Faith Communities and the Fight for Racial Justice: What Has Worked, What Hasn't, and Lessons We Can Learn

The communities, congregations, and faith-based coalitions that have been working for racial justice over the past fifty years


Published (US):
Nov 14, 2023
Published (UK):
Jan 9, 2024
6.13 x 9.25 in.
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Have progressive religious organizations been missing in action in recent struggles for racial justice? In Faith Communities and the Fight for Racial Justice, Robert Wuthnow shows that, contrary to activists’ accusations of complacency, Black and White faith leaders have fought steadily for racial and social justice since the end of the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Wuthnow introduces us to the communities, congregations, and faith-based coalitions that have worked on fair housing, school desegregation, affirmative action, criminal justice, and other issues over many years. Often overshadowed by the Religious Right, these progressive faith-based racial justice advocates kept up the fight even as media attention shifted elsewhere.

Wuthnow tells the stories of the faith-based affordable housing project in St. Louis that sparked controversy in the Nixon White House; a pastor’s lawsuit in North Carolina that launched the nation’s first busing program for school desegregation; the faith outreach initiative for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign; and church-mobilized protests following the deaths of Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, and George Floyd. Drawing on extensive materials from denominations, journalists, and social scientists, Wuthnow offers a detailed and frank discussion of both the achievements and the limitations of faith leaders’ roles. He focuses on different issues that emerged at different times, tracing the efforts of Black and White faith leaders who sometimes worked cooperatively and more often tackled problems in complementary ways. Taken together, these stories provide lessons in what faith communities have done and how they can better advocate for racial justice in the years ahead.

Robert Wuthnow on Faith Communities and the Fight for Racial Justice