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Religion and the Civil Rights Movement Syllabus

This course presents the centrality of religious activists, organizations, institutions, intellectuals, clergy, and laypeople to the work of civil rights activism in twentieth-century United States history.  Students will explore the theologies of African American Protestants, liberal religious thinkers, and adherents to Gandhian nonviolence that allowed many to wage nonviolent struggle against racial segregation, violence, and disfranchisement in American politics and society.  In-class discussions and exercises will allow students to engage the religious sermons, speeches, memoirs, music, and visual protest strategies of movement activists as they risked their lives pursuing a nonviolent end to America’s violent Jim Crow reality.Units I and II focus on the historical backdrop and theological foundations of civil rights work for twentieth-century religious activists.  Unit III shifts the course focus to the mid-century period of civil rights activism, 1955-1968.  The term concludes with reflection on the legacies of religious activism for civil rights causes.

Vaughn Booker

Dartmouth College

Private College or University
Institution Type

Resource Type

Undergraduate Course
Class Type

Date Published

Religious Studies

Islam, Judaism, Other Christianities, Protestant
Religous Tradition


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