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Richmond's Priests and Prophets, Richmond's Priests and Prophets, 0817319174, 0-8173-1917-4, 978-0-8173-1917-5, 9780817319175, , , Richmond's Priests and Prophets, 0817390790, 0-8173-9079-0, 978-0-8173-9079-2, 9780817390792, , , Richmond's Priests and Prophets, 0817360549, 0-8173-6054-9, 978-0-8173-6054-2, 9780817360542,

Richmond's Priests and Prophets
Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era

Trade Cloth
2017. 200 pp.
Price:  $49.95 s
E Book
2017. 200 pp.
Price:  $49.95 d
Quality Paper
2022. 200 pp.
Price:  $29.95 s
Expected Availability 3/15/2022

Explores the ways in which white Christian leaders in Richmond, Virginia navigated the shifting legal and political battles around desegregation even as members of their congregations struggled with their own understanding of a segregated society

Douglas E. Thompson’s Richmond’s Priests and Prophets: Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era presents a compelling study of religious leaders’ impact on the political progression of Richmond, Virginia, during the time of desegregation. Scrutinizing this city as an entry point into white Christians’ struggles with segregation during the 1950s, Thompson analyzes the internal tensions between ministers, the members of their churches, and an evolving world.
In the mid-twentieth-century American South, white Christians were challenged repeatedly by new ideas and social criteria. Neighborhood demographics were shifting, public schools were beginning to integrate, and ministers’ influence was expanding. Although many pastors supported the transition into desegregated society, the social pressure to keep life divided along racial lines placed Richmond’s ministers on a collision course with forces inside their own congregations. Thompson reveals that, to navigate the ideals of Christianity within a complex historical setting, white religious leaders adopted priestly and prophetic roles.
Moreover, the author argues that, until now, the historiography has not viewed white Christian churches with the nuance necessary to understand their diverse reactions to desegregation. His approach reveals the ways in which desegregationists attempted to change their communities’ minds, while also demonstrating why change came so slowly—highlighting the deeply emotional and intellectual dilemma of many southerners whose worldview was fundamentally structured by race and class hierarchies.

Douglas E. Thompson is professor of history and southern studies at Mercer University. He is the editor of the Journal of Southern Religion and the coeditor of Jessie Mercer’s Pulpit: Preaching in a Community of Faith and Learning.

“Richmond's Priests and Prophets offers an empathetic, balanced, and unflinching assessment of the white congregants who stumbled their way toward at least official declarations of openness and inclusion across racial lines. This monograph provides an excellent model for historians interested in expanding the scope and significance of local studies of the civil rights era.”
Reading Religion

“This local history will appeal to Virginians, but those interested in civil rights, the school desegregation battles, and how white Christians navigated this era also should take notice of this book. Thompson offers useful insight into how one religious community confronted the problem of racial segregation in the years before 1960 and should serve as an invitation for others to do likewise. Richmond’s Priests and Prophets should remind scholars that assessing historical change that is slow or incomplete is still crucial to understanding what comes next.”
Journal of Southern Religion

“Through a fresh analysis of the various desegregation strategies and patterns of the era, Thompson offers a timely and significant insight into one of the most pivotal American movements.”
The Project on Lived Theology

Richmond's Priests and Prophets makes a substantial contribution to scholarship in an empirically grounded and conceptually engaging way.”
—Paul Harvey, author of Through the Storm, Through the Night: A History of African American Christianity
“Thoroughly examining the clergy in one upper-South city, but one that just happened to have been the capital of the Confederacy, Thompson provides a compelling argument that the standard evaluation of the white southern clergy as too invested in advancing up the ministerial ladder ‘ain’t necessarily so’ and raises a cautionary voice against the ‘Silent South’ thesis."
—Andrew Manis, author of A Fire You Can't Put Out: The Civil Rights Life of Birmingham’s Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth

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