Mark Newman


Although the state's malapportioned Iegislature enabled defiant hard-line segregationists in rural north Florida to dominate the General Assembly until the late 1960s, Florida' governors pursued a moderate policy of tokenism and minimal compliance with federal desegregation initiatives in the late 1950s and 1960s. The Florida Baptist Convention, representing the largest white Protestant denomination in the state with 400,000 members, did not condemn Jim Crow until the mid-1960s, but by appealing to the primary commitments Southern Baptists held to law and order, peace, public education, and missions, it encouraged them to accept desegregation. Most Southern Baptist preferred segregation and some imbued it with biblical justification but the majority of follower gradually, if reluctantly, accepted the demise of de jure segregation when its continuation conflicted with their primary commitments. By the early 1970s, few Baptist churches turned African American away from their doors, and most Baptists rejected forced segregation as unchristian. However, only a minority of Baptists sought integration, while some others joined white flight to the suburbs and private school to evade desegregation. 1