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Presbyterians and the Civil Rights Movement

In September 1958, the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. Presbytery of Washburn adopted a resolution urging Arkansas Governor Orval E. Faubus to countermand his anti-integration order instructing Arkansas high schools not to open for the Fall term. Governor Faubus spoke out against the presbytery, stating that the Presbyterian clergy in Little Rock, Arkansas, were comprised of "left-wingers" and "Communists." The presbytery responded to the Governor with the following resolution.

Presbytery of Washburn resolution sent to Governor Orval Faubus, September 16, 1958. Click to read.

The Nashville Tennessean reported on the backlash against the Governor. Click to read.

The officers of the Washburn Presbytery, shown left to right: Reverend James A. Mahon, Jr., of Second Presbyterian Church, Fort Smith, Arkansas; Dr. T.B. Hay, president of the Arkansas Council of Churches and pastor of Pulaski Heights Presbyterian Church, in Little Rock; and Charles S. Harley of Little Rock, permanent clerk. Religious News Service, photograph by Lelia Maude Funston, 1958.

On July 4, 1963, Stated Clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A., Reverend Eugene Carson Blake, traveled from New York to Maryland to walk with African Americans seeking admission into the segregated Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. Blake was arrested during the demonstration, along with 282 other protestors. Here, Eugene Carson Blake enters a police van after being arrested. United Press International, Inc., NY, photograph by James E. Curry, 1963. (Image ID: 3157)

Watch a video of Eugene Carson Blake being arrested in Baltimore.

Blake is preceded by William Sloane Coffin, chaplain of Yale University, and followed by Roman Catholic Father Joseph Connolly, as the group enters Gwynn Oak to challenge segregation. Presbyterian Life, August 1, 1963, p. 25.

Protestant, Catholic and Jewish clergymen were among the 300 people arrested in a series of efforts to integrate the privately owned Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. In one of the anti-segregation demonstrations outside the park, a minister donned a red, white and blue "Uncle Sam" outfit to symbolize the fight for racial equality. He was promptly arrested on trespassing charges. The clergyman, the Reverend David Andrews, assistant chaplain at Morgan State College, is shown here being taken into custody by police. World Wide Photos, 1963.