Date of Award

Fall 1979

Degree Type

Thesis - Restricted

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Miller, William


In his work, The Negro Church in America, published in 1963, E. Franklin Frazier argued that the Black Church had lost its influence as an agency of social control over marital and community problems. This was due, according to Frazier, to blacks being forced into competition with whites in most areas of social and economic life. Under these pressures, the church could no longer serve as a refuge within American society and while middle class blacks continued to be affiliated with the church, it ceased to be the center of social life in the black community. Frazier further argued that the dominant position of the church in Black American life crumbled as the wall of segregation came tumbling down.

l A look at Black American History since 1915, reveals two historical movements which have changed the social, political, economic and religious status of the black man in America. The first was the migration which brought thousands of black families to the North during the period from 1915 to 1925. The second was the Civil Rights movement of the late 1950's and 1960's.

Additional factors to be considered in discussing the evolution of the Black Church are the philosophies of the different groups which called for social reform. We will attempt to identify the Black Church's relationship to such diverse reform elements as the non-violent philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., separatist movement of the Black Muslims and the violent actions of the Black Panther Party.

Among the questions to be addressed in this study are: Did the Black Church work to promote religious cohesion among Blacks? Or did the church contribute to a split in Black American culture? Through historical investigation, we will determine whether E. Franklin Frazier's contention concerning the failure of the Black Church is a reality or just a product of the imagination of a pessimistic old man.



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