Some Concluding Thoughts on the Shape of Freedom

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

Fairfax Taylor’s gravesite in Charlottesville

With the start of the Fall semester here at the University, I’m brought to the end of my summer internship with the Project on Lived Theology, and for the time being am pausing my research on First Baptist Church on Park Street and First Baptist Church on Main Street. I learned more this Summer through my research than I ever could have imagined and am beyond grateful for the opportunity that the Project has offered to me. I’ve come to realize that the ground I walk everyday in our dynamic, alive Charlottesville bears the remarkable stories of people who dared to chase freedom, people who fought, people who kept the faith in pursuit of the holy. The legacies of our local heroes traverse the bounds of time and I see it all around me: First Baptist on Main, William and Isabella Gibbons Residential Hall, letters from Fairfax Taylor preserved in the Albemarle Historical Society. 

But for every legacy of freedom, there runs parallel a legacy of oppression. I sit in ornate Old Cabell Hall as I write this article, a UVA academic building named for a family of particularly racist slave owners and white supremacists. As I wrote about a month ago, the Cabell story intertwines, painfully and ever so intimately, with the story of First Baptist. Thomas Jefferson, the highly venerated ‘king’ of the University of Virginia even today, kept close contact with the Cabells and communicated frequently with the them regarding the trading and sale of slaves. Charlottesville is the site of many an atrocity, from the treatment of African American bodies in anatomical labs, to the construction of academic structures over slave gravesites, to the horrific attacks that took place in August 2017. For many, 2017 came as a moment of great clarity (though it should not have had to come at all): no matter how far the work of Charlottesville legends may have taken us, there is still much, much further to go.

If there is anything I have learned from this project that I know I’ll hold onto, it is that the heavenly promise of freedom can take a variety of forms. I’m reminded of what Pat Edwards told me when I visited First Baptist Church on Main Street: the freedom of the original black members of Charlottesville Baptist Church to form their own church was not just a freedom from, “but a freedom toward”- toward autonomy, agency, education, and worship. Similarly, Lottie Moon fought for her freedom to live out and share the Gospel without barriers for herself or other women- another very particular kind of freedom. All of these are forms, in my opinion, of deeply holy and spiritual liberation; the hand of God present as the Gospel is spread with increasing accessibility and joy. I’m encouraged by these echoes of freedom I can hear when I walk down Charlottesville’s West Main Street. 

Going forward, I hope to continue to engage with the story of First Baptist in further research, perhaps culminating in a Distinguished Major thesis next year. Many more twists and turns that I did not have time to cover over just one Summer remain in this story, and I hope to explore them over the course of the next couple years (so rest assured, to those dear readers of mine who have been devoted to my posts, that there is more to come!).             

I have many people to thank for this amazing opportunity with the Project on Lived Theology. My particular gratitude goes to Guy Aiken, Charles Marsh, Jessica Seibert, Miranda Burnett, Mike Dickens, Pat Edwards, and Rob Pochek. Without any of these people, this thrilling and invigorating experience would not have been possible. 

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

Lottie Moon: The Mother of Southern Baptist Missionaries

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

Charlotte Digges Moon, nicknamed “Lottie” Moon, is renowned throughout Southern Baptist history as a pioneer of Chinese missions for women, and her story begins right in central Virginia. A member of Charlottesville Baptist Church (before there were the two First Baptists), Miss Moon would help pave the way for Baptist women in ministry. Though this is something of a deviation from the history I’ve told in my previous blog posts- specifically, that of the church split- Lottie Moon’s story follows a tangential trajectory toward spiritual liberation.

Lottie Moon was born in 1840 to Edward Moon and Anna Barclay Moon and named for her paternal grandmother. She had eight siblings, though two died in early infancy. Her parents were wealthy landowners in Scottsville, Virginia, and prioritized educating Lottie and her sisters. Known as one of the best educated women in the South, she ended up attending Albemarle Female Institute to receive her Master’s degree, which was common at the time for educated women in the Charlottesville area since they could not yet attend the University. 

Lottie felt indifferent toward her Southern Baptist upbringing, and her friends from school frequently prayed that she would orient her curiosity and thirst for knowledge toward spirituality. In December of 1858, a series of revival meetings were taking place at Charlottesville Baptist Church, led by the Reverend John Broadus, one of the original founders of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Moon arrived at one of these meetings without the intention of becoming a Christian, but was baptized by Broadus and gave her life to Christ. In her book The New Lottie Moon Story, Catherine B. Allen writes that “Lottie rose from the waters of the Charlottesville Baptist baptistry a noticeably different woman. ‘She had always wielded an influence because of her intellectual power,’ wrote Julia [Toy]. ‘Now her great talent was directed into another channel. She immediately took a stand as a Christian.’”

Moon began her career as a teacher, moving to Danville, Kentucky to teach at Danville Female Academy in 1866, and later at a high school she opened, Cartersville Female High School, in Cartersville, Georgia. In the meantime, Lottie also ministered to impoverished families at the First Baptist Church of Bartow County, Georgia. In 1872, Lottie’s sister, Edmonia, became a missionary in China. Edmonia Moon would be the first single woman to become a Southern Baptist missionary, and Lottie decided she wanted to follow her there in 1873. 

In China, Lottie became committed to being “out among the millions” and was determined to participate in direct evangelism. This would prove an issue, however, as women were discouraged most of the time from ministering to people. For a while Miss Moon was assigned to become a school teacher to particularly unruly children. After 7 years and persistent correspondence with H.A. Tupper of the Southern Baptist Missionary Board about the need for women missionaries, Lottie moved to the Inner Shantung Province to do the direct evangelism she’d set out to do. She connected especially with the Chinese women, learning Chinese herself and taking the time to familiarize herself with Chinese culture. Lottie’s preaching would produce hundreds of converts to Christianity, her passion reflected in the letters she sent back to the states constantly asking for more missionaries to join her. Lottie seemed to express concern that Southern Baptist missionaries did not want to interact with cultures different from their own, writing, “People talk vaguely about the heathen, picturing them as scarcely human, or at best, as ignorant barbarians. If they could live among them as I do they would find in the men much to respect and admire; in the women and girls they would see many lovable traits of character… Here I am working alone in a city of many thousand inhabitants with numberless villages. How many can I reach?” (Allen 172).

Lottie Moon would die in 1912 at the age of 72 on a passage back to the States, but her legacy continues. Considered the modern mother of Southern Baptist missionaries, the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, established in 1888, is responsible for half of the Southern Baptist Convention’s International Missions Fund. She encouraged women to form their own missionary organizations, being a founder herself of the Women’s Missionary Union which is still active today. 

Her dedication to her faith and to helping others led Miss Moon to bravely challenge expectations of her as a woman and break down the walls in her way. A woman from central Virginia and Charlottesville Baptist Church, Lottie Moon’s proximity to the rest of the First Baptist’s history cannot be overstated. Lottie’s determination to lead people to the freedom of salvation, regardless of barriers in her way, is reminiscent of the members of First Baptist Church on Main fighting courageously for their own freedom. These local heroes live out the words of 2 Corinthians 17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

PLT Seeks Graduate Research Fellow

Project on Lived Theology Logo

The Project on Lived Theology is a research community that convenes religion scholars and writers, students and practitioners, across diverse academic fields and confessional traditions to consider the social consequences of theological ideas and religious commitments. 

For the academic year 2022 – 2023, the Project seeks a Graduate Research Assistant, who will work ten hours per week in research, editing, and social media related to PLT programs and everyday operations.

Preferred Experience & Qualifications:

  • Individual initiative    
  • Strong organizational skills.
  • Independent work on assigned tasks.
  • Effective communication in written reports.
  • Some experience with social media management.
  • General knowledge of theological studies as an academic discipline.

$20 – $22/hour

Start date: August 23, 2022

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to:

livedtheology@virginia.edu

PLT Seeks Undergraduate Research Fellows

Project on Lived Theology Logo

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world. We are seeking a work-study student for a variety of tasks, including general office organization, website postings, video and audio content processing, social media, and other tasks as they arise. Hours are flexible.

Preferred Experience & Qualifications:

  • Ability to perform many different tasks.    
  • Strong organizational skills.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Website experience.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Video and audio content processing

$15 – $18/hour

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to:

livedtheology@virginia.edu

Fairfax Taylor: Civil Rights Hero of Albemarle

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

Fairfax Taylor’s gravesite in Charlottesville

Having spent my last blog post discussing people who might have made the church split at Charlottesville Baptist more difficult, this week I want to refocus on a man who fought hard for First Baptist Church on Main Street’s Independence: the Reverend Fairfax Taylor. Born on June 1, 1816 in Charlottesville, Fairfax Taylor was the son of Bennett and Grace Taylor. Taylor bought his freedom prior to the Civil War and used that freedom to urge black liberation in Albemarle political and social circles. Taylor was considered a major radical for the nineteenth century, advocating for black inclusion on local juries and at the University. To provide a clearer picture of how this would have appeared to community members at the time, the first African American student to attend UVA, George Swanson, was not admitted until 1950, fifty-five years after Taylor’s death. 

Fairfax Taylor was a member at Charlottesville Baptist Church, as well as one of the original ministers at First Baptist Church on Main Street, back when it was called Delevan Baptist. According to manuscripts available at the Albemarle County Historical Society, Taylor was “instrumental” in the separation agreement between the Park Street and Main Street churches. During dealings with the two church committees, Taylor often spoke on behalf of the black congregants, and was able to do so quite well; he could “not only read and write but [had] some knowledge of grammar,” according to Freedmen’s Bureau records, something unusual for African Americans of Charlottesville at the time. 

While Taylor identified as a Baptist, he also served as the sexton at Christ Episcopal Church starting around 1859. According to church records, Taylor might have even been the first sexton at Christ Church, as his is the earliest name listed in the position. Much like at Charlottesville Baptist Church, black members of the congregation at Christ Episcopal were segregated to the balcony of the church during services, and like First Baptist they eventually petitioned to separate during World War I. Taylor remained employed by the church until December of 1883, and was possibly followed by his son, James T. S. Taylor.

One of nine children and the only boy, James followed in his father’s footsteps and was involved with local politics. He was elected to the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1867, but did not have his father’s support in the election. When the time came to nominate a delegate, Fairfax endorsed Judge Rives, who was a radical white man. Fairfax believed that an African American would not have the “oratory skills or education” (according to manuscripts) to be an effective delegate, and advised that for the sake of representing African Americans properly, a white man should be sent. Regardless, James was nominated anyway and served on the Convention.

Fairfax Taylor’s legacy of activism and persistence permeates throughout the Charlottesville community today. A small road by Martha Jefferson Hospital was renamed Taylor Road in his honor in 1993, and his grave (pictured above) was rededicated in 2013. I had the honor of going to visit his grave just a few days ago, and was struck, similarly to last week, by the physical closeness of this history to where I live now. Hidden beneath the busyness of Charlottesville today, more and more I have found stories of unrelenting faith, courage, and the desire for freedom in our city. Taylor’s story reminds me of what Pat Edwards said just a few weeks ago when I visited her at First Baptist Church on Main Street: the original members were motivated by their reach toward freedom, a spiritual exercise of resilience and fortitude. Not too different, I’d wager, from the reach toward freedom Paul describes to the Romans in his Biblical letter: “Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”

Special thanks for this post goes to Michael Dickens, who I had the pleasure of speaking to about the history of Christ Episcopal Church and about Farifax Taylor. Some information for this article is taken from his book, Like an Evening Gone: A History of Christ Episcopal Church, Charlottesville Upon the Occasion of Its 200th Anniversary.

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

Virginia Legacy and False Science: The Cabell Family

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

Volunteering at the Albemarle Historical Society just the other day, I had a casual conversation with the librarian about the ways that Charlottesville was “ruled” by particular prominent families in the nineteenth century- certain last names come up over and over in her and my own research of local history. “Everyone was kind of related to everyone,” she told me- and for the history of First Baptist Church, I don’t think this sentence rings more true than for the Cabell family.

The history of Cabell influence in Virginia traces back to William Cabell, who came to the Jamestown settlement in 1726 from England. After spending time exploring the land that would later become Nelson county, Cabell received an initial grant of 6320 acres from King George I. Eventually, his land ownership would grow to exceed 40,000 acres of land in Central Virginia, thus beginning the Cabell legacy. 

Cabell Hall of UVA is named for Joseph Carrington Cabell, who was recruited by Jefferson in the initial planning for UVA’s development. Joseph Cabell was strongly committed to upholding the institution of slavery in Virginia and, like his nephew, white supremacy. Records located at various UVA libraries discuss the Cabells’ dealings with enslaved peoples, one of which being the 1820 census of slaves- taken when Joseph Cabell was thirty two- pictured in part below.

According to Alan Taylor, UVA Professor, Joseph Cabell was particularly unforgiving in his management of slaves, “treat[ing] slaves as investments… he shifted and sold them to increase his profits, slighting their family relations as of little concern. When the estate manager, George Gresham, balked at the proposed changes as disruptive, Cabell wanted to fire him.” According to Taylor, Cabell would frequently have his slaves whipped or beaten, and slaves would frequently run away from the Corotoman Estate, where Cabell owned a share.

Joseph Cabell’s nephew, James Lawrence Cabell, was a professor of science at UVA, and eventually became the first president of the National Board of Health. In the meantime, Cabell wrote The Testimony of Modern Science to the Unity of Mankind, which highlighted his affirming beliefs about both eugenics and, namely, white supremacy. James Cabell also “solved” the University’s problems with obtaining anatomical subjects for study by encouraging the grave robbery of deceased, formerly enslaved African Americans at the University.

The power the Cabells had- over land, enslaved people, and understandings of race and science in Virginia- becomes more tangible when exploring their direct impact on First Baptist Church. According to the essay The Education of William Gibbons by Scott Nesbit, the first black pastor at First Baptist Church on Main Street, William Gibbons, was likely enslaved by none other than Arthur Gibbons, who is the brother in law of James Lawrence Cabell. Gibbons began preaching informally at Charlottesville Baptist while he was still enslaved in 1844 (likely as an aid to a white preacher, according to Nesbit), and became the official pastor at First Baptist Church on Main Street in 1868. William Gibbons would go on to marry Isabella Gibbons, a teacher at the Jefferson School, and Gibbons Residence Hall at UVA is named for the couple.

William served as an aid of sorts to Arthur Gibbons, and through social connections of Arthur’s was able to obtain an informal education that would have far exceeded most other African Americans of the day, earning him great respect in the church. However, Nesbit writes that at that time “often students would “teach” African Americans about racial hierarchy through acts of violence that interrupted black community life and reinforced blacks’ vulnerability and consequent dependency upon whites.” Orra Langhorne, a 19th Century writer for the Southern Workman magazine, wrote regarding William Gibbons that “it was rather amusing to the white boys… to see a Negro so anxious to learn.” It’s well worth noting that James Lawrence Cabell was teaching eugenic beliefs at UVA at the same time that William was enslaved there.

During the same year that William Gibbons became the preacher of First Baptist on Main, the congregation members were working on securing a church building. According to Richard I. McKinney in his book Keeping the Faith, there was a great deal of difficulty securing the deed for the church from a certain P. Cabell (I have had trouble finding this man’s first name, but McKinney is clear that he is of the Cabell family). The matter took five years to settle, as the buyers had to negotiate continuously with Cabell about specifically how much was owed to him and his assignees.            

Anyone who attends UVA now can recognize the Cabell name. But before first hearing about James Lawrence Cabell in a theological bioethics class I took this past year, and before learning the history of First Baptist Church, I only knew the name as an academic building with a library that I liked. To find that the Cabells were a picture of domination in Charlottesville- over those enslaved and over the city itself- makes me think deeply about the land I walk on everyday here, for a long time owned in part by a family that went to great lengths to preserve white supremacy.

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

First Baptist: The Condensed Version

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

In order to set the stage for the many interweaving threads that form the contemporary complexities of First Baptist churches on Main Street and Park Street, let’s begin at a point in history that now only exists on paper: the original Charlottesville Baptist Church. In establishing some framing first, we can set the stage to dive deeper into the specific people and events that bring life and meaning to the congregations today.

1820 marks the first records of Baptist services taking place in Charlottesville, led by Reverend Daniel Davis at the Charlottesville Courthouse. Finally formally established in 1831, the Charlottesville First Baptist Church was located at the corner of Fourth and East Jefferson Streets. The original Charlottesville Baptist Church was home to many prominent Baptist Virginians, including Dr. John A. Broadus, former president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; the two founders of the first college YMCA; and legendary Baptist missionary Lottie Moon, whom I will cover in more depth in a later blog post. 

By 1863, at the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, Charlottesville Baptist had approximately 800 black members, who by some accounts outnumbered the white congregants, despite the fact that black members were segregated to the balcony of the church. On April 20th, 1863, just four months after Lincoln’s issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation, the black members of the church issued an application through white church member C.L. Thompson to leave the church and form their own congregation elsewhere. I had the opportunity to sit down with Pat Edwards, historian at First Baptist Church on Main Street, who gave three main reasons for the split: the anxiousness of the black members of the congregation to become educated, their eagerness to take hold of church leadership that they had always been denied, and the realization that Emancipation could mean true freedom in more ways than one. The letter given to the governing board of Charlottesville Baptist by Thompson is below.

However, the break was not exactly clean. The formation of an independent church by black members with the conditions they set forth was a contested matter until over a year later in July of 1864 (in the meantime, the black members of the congregation met in the basement of Charlottesville Baptist). In fact, the black members made some concessions; namely, that the new black church had to have a white pastor—a Virginia law passed in 1832 made it illegal for African Americans to worship without a white minister present. The first three pastors at First Baptist Church on Main Street—Reverend J. Randolph, Reverend H. Fife, and Reverend J. George— were all white men. Reverend William Gibbons, who was formerly enslaved at UVA and in other parts of Albemarle county, became the first black preacher at First Baptist Main in 1868.

In the meantime, the two First Baptists experienced several location changes. Black congregation members had already been meeting separately in the parent church as well as the old Delavan Hotel, also called the “Mudwall” Building, located on West Main street. In 1868, the members of the new black church bought Mudwall, and in 1883 the new church building was completed as it is on Main Street today. As for First Baptist Church on Park Street, the building moved in October 1853 from Fourth and Jefferson streets to Second and Jefferson streets. On February 2nd, 1977, after plans for a new building had already been made, a fire destroyed the church and the current building was later erected on Park Street. It’s worth noting as well that Mt. Zion First African Baptist Church, now located on Lankford Avenue, is an offshoot of First Baptist on Main that separated during the nineteenth century, and that Jefferson Park Baptist Church, now located on Jefferson Park Avenue, is a church plant of First Baptist on Park (both offshoots will be covered in later posts).

Reading the bare-bones history of it all, I imagine more questions than answers come up in the minds of the reader (they would for me, at least). Who, truly, are the people behind these religious movements? How does this story intertwine with Civil Rights, integration, Charlottesville? As we go deeper and deeper each week, the picture will become clearer. Next week, I’ll introduce the Cabbell Family of UVA fame, and the ways that their influence shaped the history of UVA, Charlottesville, and most importantly, First Baptist Church.

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

The Narcosis of the Evangelical Mind: The Rolling Stone Interview

New Memoir Recounts the Anxiety and Thrills of Growing Up a Conservative Christian

On June 16, Charles Marsh sat down with Alex Morris, senior writer at Rolling Stone, to talk about his new memoir Evangelical Anxiety.

We’ve been fans of Alex Morris’ work for years. She writes on a variety of hot topics in political and pop culture and her coverage of white Christian nationalism and evangelical Christianity has broadened the magazine’s scope to include the American religion beat. 

She published a brilliant and widely-praised essay on December 2, 2019, “False Idol — Why the Christian Right Worships Donald Trump.” Alex’s writing has also appeared in New York (where she was a contributing editor for over a decade), GlamourMarie ClaireBillboardDetails, and Southern Living.

So it was a thrill when Alex reached out to ask how Marsh, who grew up in the evangelical church in the Deep South, ended up on an analysts’ couch, and whether anyone can survive fundamentalism unscarred – 

And when she wrote in her intro: “Marsh’s book is an erudite glimpse into the psychology of white evangelicalism and how the current proliferation of white Christian nationalism could spring from the religious imperatives Marsh details.”

Read the Rolling Stone interview here.

For more information on Evangelical Anxiety, click here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Two Separate Churches

by Emily Miller, 2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Fellow in Lived Theology

The day I first found out that Charlottesville had two First Baptist Churches, it felt like something of a footnote. I was attending a lecture on racial reconciliation for a CIO leadership program, and the speaker was discussing the tendency for homogenous racial groups to stay together, particularly in faith communities.

“There’s actually two Baptist churches in Charlottesville–Main and Park–who used to be one, but split, and now are two,” he said. “And they’re still segregated today.”

And with that, the lecture moved on, and there was nothing more to say about the two First Baptist Churches. I sat still, admittedly having stopped paying attention too closely and instead thought about the two churches. First Baptist Church on Main Street was just a few blocks from where I was living at the time of the lecture. I drove by it nearly every single day. I knew people who attended First Baptist Church on Park Street. And yet, I had no idea–and frankly at the time, no reason to care–about the deep, profoundly complicated relationship between and histories of each of the congregations.

I was dumbstruck. Charlottesville had become my city, and I claimed to be someone who was socially aware of what was happening within the city limits. And still, right under my nose was a story that I would come to find reverberated across the culture of Charlottesville, UVA, the state of Virginia, and even the Southern Baptist Convention.

With the fellowship opportunity from the Project on Lived Theology, my digging began. Mornings spent between classes in downtown Charlottesville at the Albemarle Historical Society became my newest obsession, and every visit has unlocked something new: tales of heroic activism in people like Fairfax Taylor, the closest thing to Virginia royalty in the old-money Cabell family, and even a murder involving a local church historian. Each intertwining thread, when carefully untangled and woven back together, forms a microcosmic narrative reflective of the imbalance that exists in the (dare I say, increasingly) separate two Baptist churches of the United States: black and white. 

And now, with the start of the summer, I’m eager to become a mouthpiece that brings the truth to life. All of the church history is here, in our city, but it’s also disconnected: profound authenticity hides within a vast number of newspaper clippings, dusty old books, penciled-in family trees, and court records. I’m hoping to begin to produce a narrative by the end of this summer that brings all the pieces together in such a way that we can tell the story beyond a footnote.

In the midst of it all, I’m met with an essential question: where is the kingdom of God in this story? Where is the Jesus of liberation? We’re talking about churches after all. I say truthfully that a dim yet distinct undercurrent of hope has infused every account of church history I’ve read. I sense a strong spiritual passion–what Richard McKinney describes simply in his account of First Baptist on Main Street as “Keeping the Faith”– permeating the history of civil rights in Charlottesville.

I can’t wait to dig deeper.

Learn more about the Emily’s Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology here.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: To Live Peaceably Together

The American Friends Service Committee’s Campaign for Open Housing

Civil rights historian Tracy E. K’Meyer tells a new story, in To Live Peaceably Together, about the seemingly intractable problem of racial injustice in housing in the United States after WWII. K’Meyer, author also of Civil Rights in the Gateway to the South: Louisville, Kentucky, 1945-1980 and From Brown to Meredith: The Long Struggle for School Desegregation in Louisville, Kentucky, 1954-2007, introduces us to the influential efforts of the predominantly white and Quaker-aligned American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in housing integration in postwar America, in particular in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Richmond, California. To Live Peaceably Together shows that the AFSC’s evolving understanding of structural inequality led them to adopt a variety of open-housing advocacy strategies that would come to be adopted by many other groups and organizations.

To Live Peaceably Together also delves into the spiritual and humanist motivations that drove the AFSC’s work for open housing. In so doing, it highlights the crucial–and unexpected–role that Quaker values like peace, integrity, community, and equality have played in the housing struggles of the last seventy years.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“In To Live Peaceably Together, K’Meyer tells the story of how, in the 1950s and ’60s, white Quaker activists and allies used a variety of strategies and tactics to try to achieve open housing. Her deeply researched, well-argued book shows us how the American Friends Service Committee was central to this aspect of the early civil rights movement and how its work inspired other groups. K’Meyer proves beyond question how important spiritual motivation was for many of the activists who sought a more just America.”

Thomas Hamm, author of The Quakers in America

To Live Peaceably Together is an original and highly readable book that reorients our understanding of the Black Freedom Struggle in the North by focusing on an advocacy group run mainly by white allies, a historical topic with great contemporary relevance. I salute K’Meyer’s achievement in telling this fascinating and overlooked story.”

Todd Michney, Georgia Institute of Technology


For more information on the publication, click
here.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. To sign up for the Lived Theology newsletter, click here.