Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 298
In God's Long Summer, Charles Marsh looks at the Civil Rights movement through the lens of religion. He shows how religious beliefs could be a force for both bad and good; each person portrayed is motivated by religion to some extent and has an impact on others during the fight for Civil Rights in the American south in the 1960s.
The person who uses religion as an excuse to do terrible things the most blatantly is Sam Bowers. The Klu Klux Klan leader believed that the Civil Rights movement was actually a secret conspiracy to subvert Christianity. He explains that was his reasoning for planning the murders of activists. He believed he was fighting for his religion.
Other people used religion more softly but still in immoral ways, including certain pastors and religious leaders like William Hudgins. Because he didn't see racism as on the same level of other sins, he didn't speak up about integrating churches or supporting the Civil Rights movement. This was something that happened in many churches.
On the other hand, other religious groups supported Civil Rights and integration. Edwin King, for example, spoke out against racism, supported integration, and protested in favor of equal rights. The Reverend suffered for his beliefs when he was cast out of social groups and disowned by his parents.
Religious beliefs also shaped who worked for the movement. Cleveland Sellers originally believed—along with Fannie Lou Hammer—that white people could work past and be forgiven for the sin of racism. However, as the movement developed he began to believe that white people working on Civil Rights was wrong. He joined the Black Panthers and worked to expel white people from the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee. Eventually, though, his opinion changed but by then the committee was closed.
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