The Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) Church is a historically black church rooted in the South that was established in 1870. The church had been viewed historically as an "old slavery" church, due to its close relationship to the White Methodist Episcopal Church (formerly Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS). The history of the denomination encouraged the view that CME churches and schools had not been active in the Civil Rights Movement. Closer research into the denomination's archives from 1954, when the church changed its name from "Colored" to "Christian" up to the 1970s, when the movement transitioned, challenges that interpretation. From the individual activist leaders across the South, to CME-affiliated historically black colleges associated with the black student movement, and the work of members of local congregations, the CME church can be shown to have been at the forefront of the movement. By focusing on three groups—CME leaders, church affiliated colleges, and a local congregation—this thesis argues that activism took many forms. Narrowly defining what constitutes civil rights activism risks overlooking important figures in the movement and failing to acknowledge the struggles individuals and church communities faced in the struggle to end disfranchisement and Jim Crow segregation. Understanding the role of the CME church in the Civil Rights Movement calls for expanding the meaning of the word activism to include acts of defiance and courage less well-understood.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Arts and Humanities
History; Public History
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Nightingale, Brandon, "CME Church in the Memory of the Civil Rights Movement" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6737.