After the Montgomery Bus Boycott: What Would Jesus Have Done?
Scholars And Activists Gather In Montgomery To Ponder The Role Of
Churches In Backing Or Opposing The Boycott
September 4, 2002--
a cold, rainy morning in December 1955 thousands of African-Americans,
who always had ridden to their jobs in the back of the Montgomery
city buses, walked to work. That was the beginning of the year-long
Montgomery bus boycott, the inauguration of the American civil rights
movement and the beginning of the end of Jim Crow laws in Alabama
and throughout the South.
bus boycott became a milestone in African-Americans’ journey
toward civil rights in the 20th century and a case study in effective,
nonviolent action. “The Montgomery story is rich in contemporary
significance for social action and the contributions of religious
communities to social healing in America,” said Charles Marsh,
associate professor of religious studies and director of the Project
on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia.
in Dr. King’s mind, but also in the minds of black church
people in Montgomery, the movement was not simply about political
goals but also about spiritual goals, about envisioning a new society,
new social possibilities for blacks and whites living together in
America,” Marsh said.
years after the path-breaking protest, an interdisciplinary group
of scholars will gather Sept. 6-8 in Montgomery, at the Dexter Avenue
Baptist Church where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became
involved in the civil rights struggle while serving as pastor.
meeting of the Virginia Workgroup on Religion and Power will examine
religious influences on the Montgomery bus boycott and the role
of congregations in supporting, or opposing, the bus boycott.
At a mass meeting
near the end of the boycott year in 1956, King summed up the achievements
of the year as a Supreme Court victory on desegregation came into
sight, Marsh said. King reminded the congregation that the boycott
was not the goal; the boycott was merely the means. The end, the
goal was: “redemption, reconciliation, and the creation of
a beloved community.”
of the Montgomery meeting, sponsored by the Project on Lived Theology
at the University of Virginia, is to seek to understand more clearly,
by talking to participants in the boycott, other activists, historians
and sociologists, what King meant by “beloved community”
and how to reclaim it in 2002, Marsh said.
Among the expected
participants will be the Rev. Richard Wills, a graduate student
in religious studies at U.Va. and former pastor at Dexter Avenue
Baptist Church, along with sociologists, historians, theologians
and activists from throughout the Southeast, gathering for the third
of four scheduled workgroup meetings this year.
to participate in the Montgomery session will be Fred Gray, the
attorney for the Montgomery Improvement Association; Ralph Luker,
historian and co-editor of the recently published papers of Martin
Luther King Jr.; Johnny Carr, a grade-school friend of Rosa Parks
and former president of the Montgomery Improvement Association,
which led the desegregation of the Montgomery public schools; and
Rev. Baxter Morris, pastor of First Baptist Church (civil rights
leader Ralph Abernathy's former pulpit).
more information on the workshop, call Charles Marsh at (434) 924-6839,
or contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For background information
on the Project on Lived Theology, visit the web site at http://livedtheology.org.
Virginia Workgroup on Religion and Power papers presented at the
Montgomery workshop will be posted on the Project on Lived Theology
web site in October.
contact: Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858