On Palm Sunday 1964, at the Second Presbyterian Church in Memphis, a group of black and white students began a "kneel-in" to protest the church's policy of segregation, a protest that would continue in one form or another for more than a year and eventually force the church to open its doors to black worshippers.
In The Last Segregated Hour, Stephen Haynes tells the story of this dramatic yet little studied tactic which was the strategy of choice for bringing attention to segregationist policies in Southern churches. "Kneel-ins" involved surprise visits to targeted churches, usually during Easter season, and often resulted in physical standoffs with resistant church people. The spectacle of kneeling worshippers barred from entering churches made for a powerful image that invited both local and national media attention.
The Memphis kneel-ins of 1964-65 were unique in that the protesters included white students from the local Presbyterian college (Southwestern, now Rhodes). And because the protesting students presented themselves in groups that were "mixed" by race and gender, white church members saw the visitations as a hostile provocation and responded with unprecedented efforts to end them. But when Church officials pressured Southwestern president Peyton Rhodes to "call off" his students or risk financial reprisals, he responded that "Southwestern is not for sale."
Drawing on a wide range of sources, including extensive interviews with the students who led the kneel-ins, Haynes tells an inspiring story that will appeal not only to scholars of religion and history, but also to pastors and church people concerned about fostering racially diverse congregations.
©2012 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible Inc.
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"Detailed book about protest kneel-ins"
I had never heard about these prayer protests at the segregation of churches in the South. For this reason, I found the subject matter interesting. However the style of the book is detailed and factual, reciting events in multiple church congregations and jumping around a lot. For this reason I struggled to identify with the people in the book. I wanted more detail on individuals, why they decided to protest and how they felt. What we got instead was the dry history "two black women...." and lots of names, places and dates.
The narrator did a very good job. His voice and tone I felt were ideally suited to this serious non-fiction book.
This book is worth a listen for the history and educational value, but I do feel if the author had focussed on one or two protesters it would have given greater insight into the period and what made people tick.
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