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Show Us How You Do It

Marshall Keeble and the Rise of Black Churches of Christ in the United States, 1914-1968

Written by Edward J. Robinson

Publication Year: 2008

Marshall Keeble (1878–1968) was the premier evangelist in black Churches of Christ from 1931 until his death in 1968. Born and reared in middle Tennessee, Keeble came under the influence of Preston Taylor, Samuel Womack, and Alexander Campbell, as well as the social influence of Booker T. Washington. In 1914, Keeble committed himself to full-time evangelism and by the 1920s had established himself as a noteworthy preacher. By the time of his death, he reportedly had baptized 40,000 people and had established more than 200 congregations, some of which still flourish today. Show Us How You Do It is the first critical study of Keeble and his evangelical career.
Based on primary sources, Edward Robinson reconstructs the life, public ministry, missionary activities, and the reception of Keeble among Churches of Christ. He also explores Keeble’s relationship with white businessmen and how he secured white support in establishing a large fellowship of African American Churches of Christ in the South. Show Us How You Do It details Keeble’s theology, ethos, and polemics toward other churches. Robinson demonstrates Keeble’s legacy in the labor of his African American co-workers and of the students who attended Nashville Christian Institute.
Of the approximately 2.5 million members of the Churches of Christ in the U.S., an estimated 10 percent are African-Americans, and many in this fellowship can trace their affiliation to Keeble and to those whom he trained.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

I am indebted to William E. Parrish of Mississippi State University for kindling my interest in the work of Marshall Keeble almost a decade ago, although the press of other projects and responsibilities for some time had limited me to chipping away at this massive and important subject. However a generous Lilly Endowment Grant through the Louisville Institute released ...

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pp. 1-8

The renowned black preacher Eugene Lawton succinctly captured the impact and import of three of the preeminent evangelists in the history of African American Churches of Christ— Marshall Keeble, George P. Bowser, and R. N. Hogan— when he spoke of their preaching and church building.1 Lawton acknowledges that Keeble, more than


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1. “I Had Rather Rely on God’s Plan Than Man’s”: Marshall Keeble and the Missionary Society Controversy

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pp. 11-21

The 1870s cast a series of extraordinary challenges before African Americans. While emancipation from slavery and the passage of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments signaled the arrival of better days for newly freed blacks, the physical assaults of the Ku Klux Klan, the...

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2. “The Greatest Missionary in the Church To-day”: The Philanthropy of A. M. Burton

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pp. 22-30

During the Progressive era northern white philanthropists often funneled substantial amounts of money to improve life for both whites and blacks in the postbellum South. Among these, George Peabody, John F. Slater, John D. Rockefeller, and Anna T. Jeanes stood as notable benefactors to the war- shattered region....

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3. An Old Negro in the New South: The Heart and Soul of Marshall Keeble

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pp. 31-44

Immediately following the Civil War, white southerners began concocting romantic notions of the “faithful” slave or the “old Negro.” Virginia author Thomas Nelson Page dubbed the younger generation of black southerners, who were untrained and undisciplined by slavery, as “rude and insolent,” but he placed the “ old- time Negroes” on a...


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4. “It Does My Soul Good When I Read the Gospel Advocate”: Marshall Keeble and the Power of the Press

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pp. 47-55

As Marshall Keeble roamed through the South in his preaching ministry he always remained closely linked to the Gospel Advocate, a weekly journal that had a profound impact on the theological formation of black Churches of Christ in the twentieth century. When Keeble established churches he immediately tied his new converts...

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5. “The Bible Is Right!”: The Theology and Strategy of Marshall Keeble

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pp. 56-69

Marshall Keeble’s theology, which he imbibed fundamentally from white leaders in Churches of Christ and which he then refl ected in his sermons, eventually formed the theological platform from which southern African American Churches of Christ emerged. Although Keeble himself left few writings for posterity, in 1931 B. C. Goodpasture assigned...


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6. “The White Churches Sponsored All of This Work”: Marshall Keeble and Race Relations in Churches of Christ

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pp. 8673-98

In 1931 Marshall Keeble enjoyed perhaps his greatest year as an evangelist, baptizing over one thousand black southerners. His preaching also converted many whites, all of whom went to the white churches and were baptized by white colleagues and subsequently attended white congregations. Keeble quickly attributed his successful...

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7. Stirring up the South: Marshall Keeble and Black Denominations in the South

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pp. 99-119

Upon hearing Marshall Keeble’s preaching, the Methodist pastor Oswell L. Aker abandoned his life- long religious tradition in Sheffi eld, Alabama, in 1926. Aker, who had been a preacher and member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church for thirty years, together with his wife, Nancy, then collaborated to serve and stabilize black Churches of Christ in Florida, Texas, and Alabama...

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8. The Great Triumvirate: Marshall Keeble, A. L. Cassius, R. N. Hogan, and the Rise of African American Churches of Christ beyond the South

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pp. 120-133

Marshall Keeble worked primarily through the states of the old Confederacy, but at times he reached beyond his beloved South. A paucity of documentation, however, obscures his evangelistic efforts outside his native region. While Keeble planted far fewer churches in the North and in the West, still his periodical meetings...


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9. Marshall Keeble’s Sons

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pp. 137-154

Marshall Keeble’s greatest legacy may well have been the company of spiritual sons he left behind who perpetuated his work of planting, edifying, and solidifying black Churches of Christ throughout the South. African American Churches of Christ owed their rise not only to the efforts of Keeble, but also to the indefatigable corps of young men whom Keeble baptized, instructed, and charged...

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10. Marshall Keeble’s Grandsons

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pp. 155-172

Marshall Keeble’s extraordinary talents and captivating personality not only gave birth to a host of spiritual sons who preached throughout the South, but they in turn sired spiritual grandsons who carried forward the pure Gospel across the land. Keeble molded the lives of scores of young men who matriculated at the Nashville Christian...

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Epilogue: The Church Marshall Keeble Made

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pp. 173-177

While this work has sought to answer the questions raised in the prologue, certain questions must remain unanswered. Some, such as exactly how many white people Marshall Keeble converted, went uncharted due to the lack of exact record keeping. Others, involving the spiritual daughters and granddaughters Keeble sired across...

Appendix I: A Chronology of Marshall Keeble

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pp. 179-180

Appendix II: Churches Marshall Keeble Established in the South

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pp. 181-182

Appendix III: Preachers Who Attended the Nashville Christian Institute

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pp. 183-184


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pp. 185-226


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pp. 227-234


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pp. 235-240

E-ISBN-13: 9780817380601
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817316129

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2008