Racism and The Baptist Bible Fellowship: Segregation, Anti-Communism and Religious Fundamentalism in the American South 1950-1965


Lavoie, The Reverend Jeffrey D.


LL.D, Ph D[History] Exeter University

This research work for the first time discusses the Baptist Bible Fellowship and its connections with segregation during the 1950sand beyond. It includes an examination of some of its key founders and their views of segregation and observes some of the crucial figures who fought for racial equality and integration within this organization. Though many of the founders of this Baptist denomination were segregationists (which could be considered racist in and of itself) some of these individuals held blatant racist views of white supremacy. What is intriguing is that many of these founders met with violent and scandalous fates that are ‘strange but true.’ In this work Dr Lavoie observes the racial views and policies of some founding members and how these institutional opinions have influenced and changed (or not) this autonomous organization over the years.

No standard published history of the Baptist Bible Fellowship (BBF) currently exists which would make this work an important contribution to modern American history, the history of racism in the United States with an emphasis on the South, and modern religion tinged political movements in general.

An introduction to this study is included that describes author’s intentions and a basic contextual background of the 1950s introducing the cultural climate. This background includes a brief analysis of the ‘communist paranoia’ which fueled the BBF founders’ views of racial segregation and served as one of the factors behind their refusal to comply with the civil rights movement. This section will also suggest a definition for both racism and segregation and engage the question, “Are the terms ‘segregation’ and ‘racism’ synonymous?”

This work also deals deals with the divisive issues which led to the foundation of the Baptist Bible Fellowship out of J. Frank Norris and his World Fundamental Baptist Missionary Fellowship (WFBMF). The study introduces key figures and personalities associated with the early BBF. The final part of this work will reprint a ‘segregation resolution’ decided upon in a BBF meeting on 28 November 1957 at Castleberry Baptist Church in Ft. Worth, TX where this resolution was passed and agreed upon by over 1,000 churches in the BBF to support racial segregation. Since the Baptist conventions are traditionally divided Black and White congregation (although remaining fairly united on basic doctrinal message) the BBF threatened to destroy what dialogue existed between pastors and congregations of different races.

Dr Lavoie also delves into the personal lives and racial views of some early BBF associated figures such as J. Frank Norris, G. B. Vick, Noel Smith, Homer G. Ritchie, and George E. Hodges ( the former having been tragically murdered by his mistress in the church parking lot). The main purpose of this chapter will be to examine these individuals and their views of racial segregation and the confluence of fundamentalist Christianity and political action.

American Religious history, 20th century, Baptist Church history, Segregation and White Supremacy, Racism in America, Civil Rights History, Southern Regional history 1945-1965, the Black Baptists, Martin Luther King, Anti Communism in American domestic politics
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Cloth: 978-1-936320-50-9
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