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COLLECTIONPublished articles
TITLEGuess Who's Coming to Church: The Chicago Defender, the Federal Council of Churches, and Rethinking Shared Faith in Interracial Religious Practice
AUTHOR 1William Stell
TITLE_PARENTChurch History
PUB_THISCambridge University Press
ABSTRACTExploring "Go-to-a-White-Church Sunday" initiated by Robert S. Abbott (1922) and "Race Relations Sunday" (1923), calling for critical analysis of assumed shared faith in interracial practice.
NOTES Mirrored with CC permission from, where it is also available in HTML and Kindle formats.
TAGSInterfaith dialogue; Christianity; Race (general); Race amity; Robert S. Abbott; Chicago Defender (newspaper); African Americans
LOCATIONSChicago; United States (documents)
Abstract: On the cover page of the September 23, 1922, issue of the Chicago Defender, editor Robert S. Abbott announced Go-to-a-White-Church Sunday. Less than a month later, the Federal Council of Churches announced its inaugural Race Relations Sunday. Through a comparative analysis of these two events, this article reconsiders historians’ tendency to assume and emphasize a shared faith across racial lines when discussing interracial religious practice in various historical contexts. Go-to-a-White-Church Sunday was intended both to introduce white churchgoers to black respectability and to provide moral guidance to white churchgoers, whose racism rendered their faith something other than true Christianity. Notwithstanding ceremonial nods to interracial religious brotherhood, Abbott's campaign hinged more so on shared understandings of respectability than on shared Christian faith. While the FCC's Race Relations Sunday differed in its valorization of white Christianity, with proclamations that interracial religious brotherhood was sufficient to solve “the race problem,” both events displayed a shared faith in the power of interracial proximity in itself to accomplish their respective ends. Historians have replicated this problematic faith in interracial proximity by using language of racial transcendence and writing as if interracial religious practice is egalitarian unless proven otherwise. This article calls for more critical, contextually mindful approaches.
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