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Faith in the City

Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit

Angela D. Dillard

Publication Year: 2007

“The dynamics of Black Theology were at the center of the ‘Long New Negro Renaissance,’ triggered by mass migrations to industrial hubs like Detroit. Finally, this crucial subject has found its match in the brilliant scholarship of Angela Dillard. No one has done a better job of tracing those religious roots through the civil rights–black power era than Professor Dillard.” —Komozi Woodard, Professor of History, Public Policy & Africana Studies at Sarah Lawrence College and author of A Nation within a Nation: Amiri Baraka (LeRoi Jones) and Black Power Politics “Angela Dillard recovers the long-submerged links between the black religious and political lefts in postwar Detroit. . . . Faith in the City is an essential contribution to the growing literature on the struggle for racial equality in the North.” —Thomas J. Sugrue, University of Pennsylvania, author of The Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit Spanning more than three decades and organized around the biographies of Reverends Charles A. Hill and Albert B. Cleage Jr., Faith in the City is a major new exploration of how the worlds of politics and faith merged for many of Detroit’s African Americans—a convergence that provided the community with a powerful new voice and identity. While other religions have mixed politics and creed, Faith in the City shows how this fusion was and continues to be particularly vital to African American clergy and the Black freedom struggle. Activists in cities such as Detroit sustained a record of progressive politics over the course of three decades. Angela Dillard reveals this generational link and describes what the activism of the 1960s owed to that of the 1930s. The labor movement, for example, provided Detroit’s Black activists, both inside and outside the unions, with organizational power and experience virtually unmatched by any other African American urban community. Angela D. Dillard is Associate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies at the University of Michigan. She specializes in American and African American intellectual history, religious studies, critical race theory, and the history of political ideologies and social movements in the United States.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

CONTENTS

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

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pp. xi-xxii

For the better part of my life I have been a preacher and pastor; there-fore, I am intrigued, gratified, and most delighted by the subject, sub-stance, and excellence of Dr. Angela Dillard’s Faith in the City: Preaching Radical Social Change in Detroit. It is a refreshing and resourceful presentation of how private faith can serve effectively to create public institutions that act valiantly, impartially, and noncoercively to bring about positive...

List of Abbreviations

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pp. xxiii-xxiv

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INTRODUCTION

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pp. 1-24

In 1963 the Michigan Chronicle, Detroit’s major African American weekly paper, invited its readers to pause in the midst of the city’s ongoing civil rights struggles to take stock of the past and reflect on the contributions of an earlier generation. In a multipart series, the paper considered the contributions of labor organizers and union members, especially those within the United Auto Workers, Congress of Industrial...

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1. EVOLVING FAITH

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pp. 25-62

In the short story “Fire and Cloud,” published in the 1940 collection Uncle Tom’s Children, African American writer Richard Wright explores the conflicts among religion, politics, race, and class by focusing on the inner turmoil and external pressures besetting Reverend Taylor, the story’s protagonist. The tale commences with Reverend Taylor, a Black minister in a small southern town, returning from a discouraging meet-...

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2. TRUE VERSUS FALSE RELIGION

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pp. 63-106

Religion, or more speci‹cally the role of churches and clergy, was the subject of increasing dispute throughout the 1930s as Detroit’s labor–civil rights community continued to develop. In the debate over “true” versus “false” visions of Christianity, progressives implicitly followed the lead...

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3. EXPLOSIVE FAITH

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pp. 107-152

In recent times,” wrote Louis E. Martin, editor of the Michigan Chronicle and a careful student of local politics, in January 1944, “there has been increasing friction between the two old American traditions, one which is essentially liberal and democratic and the other patently reactionary. In perhaps no other great American city does this conflict come into sharper focus than in tumultuous Detroit. Even before the war this...

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4. TO FULFILL YESTERDAY’S PROMISE

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pp. 153-195

Detroit’s civil rights community entered the immediate post–World War II period as a well-organized, if not always successful, center of social protest. The war had provided a context in which demands for civil rights and social justice, particularly for African Americans, could be framed within a language of national defense, antifascism, and the ...

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5. THE FREEDOM STRUGGLE NORTH AND SOUTH

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pp. 196-236

I think we overestimated the potential support of the trade union movement,” Coleman A. Young lamented years after the National Negro Labor Council had been hounded out of existence in the late 1950s, “and underestimated the necessity of rooting ourselves in the ghetto.” We needed,” Young continued with the clarity of hindsight, ...

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6. BLACK FAITH

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pp. 237-285

By the late 1960s, the Rev. Albert B. Cleage Jr. had become a leading figure in the movement to link African American religion and Black theology with Black nationalism and Black power. He was, notes theologian James H. Cone, “one of the few black ministers who has embraced Black Power as a religious concept and has sought to reorient the church-community on the basis of it.” 1 He was also one of the most controversial ...

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CONCLUSION

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pp. 286-306

Motown, if you don’t come around, we’re gonna burn you down.Neither the work of community organizations such as the WCO nor that of established civil rights organizations, from the NAACP and the Detroit Urban League to the Group on Advanced Leadership, nor the resources channeled into Detroit’s War (some called it a skirmish)on Poverty was enough to prevent the outbreak of urban rebellion in the...

Notes

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pp. 307-364

Index

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pp. 365-384

Illustrations following page 168

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E-ISBN-13: 9780472024162
E-ISBN-10: 0472024167
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472032075
Print-ISBN-10: 0472032070

Page Count: 416
Illustrations: 8 figures, 18 photographs
Publication Year: 2007

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Hill, Charles Andrew, 1893-1970.
  • Civil rights -- Religious aspects -- Christianity -- History -- 20th century.
  • Cleage, Albert B.
  • Clergy -- Political activity -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Michigan -- Detroit -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • African Americans -- Civil rights -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Detroit (Mich.) -- Social conditions -- 20th century.
  • Civil rights movements -- Michigan -- Detroit -- 20th century.
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