Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Marten, James

Second Advisor

Jablonsky, Thomas

Third Advisor

Smith, Robert


In 1963 Dr. King observed that America was most segregated on Sunday mornings when its churches were filled with worshippers. My dissertation investigates the response of Milwaukee’s white urban Protestant churches to the Second Great Migration, which led to tremendous growth in the city’s African American population. The difficulty caused by many white members living in the suburbs while still attending church in racially transitioning city neighborhoods was compounded in some cases by the negative influence exerted by denominational history and polity. While those realities were often far more significant than theology in determining how individual congregations reacted to the first instances of racial diversity in their midst, churches that viewed demographic transition solely as a spiritual opportunity were the ones able to successfully become integrated congregations.My project is a case study of three churches; each represents one of three responses by white Protestant congregations in the city. Some relocated to the suburbs. Others primarily studied the problem academically and consequently developed and hosted programs to meet tangible physical needs but did not see African Americans as worthy equals in church membership. These congregations eventually closed. A few churches, however, motivated by their belief that all humans were in need of the salvation only Jesus could provide, sought to build relationships with their new neighbors. Those churches became racially integrated and remain so today.

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