In the spring of 1963, the National Council of Churches, the headquarters of liberal Protestantism, determined that Protestant leaders had to both model and demand Christian responses to racism. “Words and declarations are no long useful in this struggle,” they declared, calling upon white Christians to finally stand up and share in the experiences black Americans were subject to on the pathway to racial justice, including personal indignities, alienation, and actual physical suffering. The NCC formed the Commission on Religion and Race, and made a key appointment– Anna Arnold Hedgeman– as Coordinator of Special Projects. Hedgeman, who also served as the only woman on the organizing committee for the March on Washington, took it upon herself to recruit 30,000 white Americans to attend the March. This chapter of Anna Arnold Hedgeman’s long life as an activist, politician, and feminist demonstrates both her outsider status (a woman among men, a black American among whites, a secular Christian among clergy) and her skills as an organizer. It also contributes to our efforts to better understand the long civil rights movement in its many manifestations.
TAGS: African American, religion, women, social movements, New York City, 1960s