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Churches and Urban Government in Detroit and New York, 1895-1994

Henry J. Pratt Preface by Ronald Brown

Publication Year: 2004

Beginning in the 1890s, the social gospel movement and its secular counterpart, the Progressive movement, set the stage for powerful church and city governance connections. What followed during the next 100 years was the emergence of religious bodies as an important instrument for influencing City Hall on moral and social issues. Churches and Urban Government compares the governing styles of Detroit and New York City from 1895 to 1994 and looks at the steps city-wide religious bodies took to advance the interests of their communities and their local government during this chaotic period in urban history. Detroit and New York City make for a very interesting case study when casting the two cities’ many similarities against their contrasting urban governance styles. What these cities share is a longstanding liberal political culture and comparable ethnic and racial diversity as well as large populations of Catholics and Protestants. Emphasizing the role of Black churches, Henry J. Pratt—with additional material from Ronald Brown—examines how immigration, the Great Depression, and the Civil Rights movement all nurtured this developing link between religion and politics, helping churches evolve into leadership roles within these metropolitan centers.

Published by: Wayne State University Press

Series: African American Life Series


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Throughout his academic career, Henry Pratt was intrigued by the dynamic and reciprocal relationship between political interest groups and public policy formation. In an introduction to Gray Agendas, a cross-national study of the relationship between old-age interest groups and public pension formation, ...

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pp. xi-xii

Henry Pratt’s premature death on May 7, 2000, prevented him from fully addressing reviewers’ concerns about black church confederations in chapter 6. Our common interest in the connection between religious institutions and local political culture led to countless discussions about this matter. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Professor Ron Brown, a colleague in the Political Science Department at Wayne State, was most generous in his willingness to serve as coauthor of chapter 6 following Henry’s death. The depth and specificity of this chapter owe much to interviews undertaken by Sabrina Williams and by Carolyn L. Heartfield, to whom we owe special thanks. ...

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pp. 1-12

This is a book about city hall and the church, and more especially about the linkages between citywide ecumenical church structures, on the one hand, and officials of large municipalities and their respective states, on the other. The book’s emphasis on big cities, as opposed to cities generally, is premised on the view that America’s major metropolitan centers are of special importance, ...

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1. Urban Churches in the Progressive Era

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pp. 13-35

It is not the conventional wisdom to suggest that American Social Christianity, from its inception in the last quarter of the nineteenth century to its eventual fading from the scene around 1920, was significantly impacted by municipal and state government. Social Christianity has been treated by several historians and sociologists, ...

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2. Churches, Government, and the Great Depression

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pp. 36-61

The Depression of the 1930s rocked America’s urban churches to their foundations and called into question the adequacy of existing mechanisms for dealing with social problems and relating to city and state political institutions. In the preceding decade, the country’s citywide church federations, ...

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3. Churches, Civil Rights, and the Great Society

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pp. 62-88

New York and Detroit, their churches included, were deeply affected by the events of the late 1950s and 1960s, including especially the Civil Rights movement and the related Kennedy-Johnson administration’s New Frontier and Great Society programs. The Civil Rights movement is generally dated from the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. ...

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4. New York Protestantism and Appointments to City Offices

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pp. 89-106

As brought out in the previous chapter, in the late 1950s and ’60s New York’s Protestant Council became keenly interested in city politics and government, partly in response to events at the national level and partly in the wake of developments unique to the city. Whereas the earlier discussion emphasized the development of formal linkages ...

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5. The Urban Church in a Conservative Political Era

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pp. 107-127

Beginning in the 1970s, and continuing into the ’80s, newspaper readers in the two cities under discussion learned that the citywide church structures serving their communities were undergoing profound changes. In regard to Protestantism, the mainly Protestant councils of churches in Detroit and New York ...

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6. The Black Church in a Post-Church Federation Era

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pp. 128-156

As previously pointed out, the quarter century that ended in 1994 witnessed a decline in the social space occupied by the doctrinally orthodox, historically rooted Christian denominations in a number of American cities. Social and economic changes essentially beyond its control buffeted mainline Protestantism, and the same changes impacted Catholicism as well, even though generally less severely. ...

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pp. 157-174

Four of the seven merit special emphasis, since they relate to more than a single historical era or to more than a single group or institution. First, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, urban government proved to be a disturbing element in the collective lives of city churches in both Detroit and New York ...


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pp. 175-182


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pp. 183-193

E-ISBN-13: 9780814336687
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814331729

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: African American Life Series

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Subject Headings

  • Christianity and politics -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American churches -- Michigan -- Detroit -- History -- 20th century.
  • Christianity and politics -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
  • African American churches -- New York (State) -- New York -- History -- 20th century.
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