In March 2017, I signed a contract with University of Georgia Press to publish A Journey of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr., the Vietnam War, and the Struggle for America’s Soul. While many focus on King’s Riverside Church speech, which was delivered April 4, 1967, King had built a long and sustained resistance to war. The civil rights movement and the American presence in Vietnam ran on parallel tracks in the American imagination until King bridged them in the period from 1965 to 1968. When complete, this manuscript will be the first book-length treatment of this subject. It will appear under the series The Morehouse College King Collection Series on Civil and Human Rights, edited by Vicki L. Crawford.
Richmond’s Priests and Prophets: Race, Religion, and Social Change in the Civil Rights Era will be published by University of Alabama Press in May 2017. The book explores how white Christians, both institutions and individuals, engaged the black freedom struggle of the civil rights movement and the politicians’ plan to keep schools segregated known as Massive Resistance. In Richmond, at least, there were a variety of responses, which have led interpreters of the period to argue that white congregations were segregationists. Richmond’s Presbyterians opening a children’s summer camp in 1957 on a desegregated basis suggests otherwise. The tension, however, within and across white congregations over how to respond meant no single clear voice emerged.
Forthcoming in 2017 also will be a chapter, “Driving Through the Great Depression,” in the edited collection Re-Assessing the American South in the 1930s from LSU Press. In the chapter I take up for the first time a longterm project that examines how automobiles changed the American South. Southerners loved cars almost from the beginning of their inception in the U.S. If “place” matters to southerners, then mobility creates the greatest threat. The chapter explores how southerners, both black and white, saw cars as a means of expression and escape. The widespread use, particularly the quick rebound in automobile registrations after 1934, meant that impoverished South of literature and photographs also was the mobile South.
In a longer-term project, I hope to revisit Richmond to pick up a piece of my research on the city that looks at ten congregations—five black and five white—that inhabited a four-block radius of Barton Heights. In 1950, five white congregations—Baptist, Catholic, Episcopal, Methodist, Presbyterian—called the buildings home. By 1960, however, three black congregations—Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian—took up residence. The Catholic congregation had moved but the “ethnic” parish model meant they did not have to deal with desegregation in the 1950s. The Methodists stayed until 1979 and then sold to a black Baptist congregation. The “most segregated hour” is a product of white arrogance and black institution building. By the time the phrase was uttered, African American Christians called for equal access but not necessarily integration. As social creatures, congregations can tell us a great deal about neighborhood transitions and why American congregations remain mostly segregated.