(405) 425-5070
The Atlanta meeting made the front page of the July 5, 1968, Christian Chronicle. Read the original story HERE.
Photo by Bobby Ross Jr.

From the 1968 archive: Atlanta Conference Studies Race

This story originally appeared on the front page of The Christian Chronicle on July 5, 1968.

ATLANTA, Ga. — A black man charged, “You want me to lift myself by my own bootstraps, but you are standing on my boots.”

A white man admitted, “I have had to defend the fact that a Negro has a soul.”

Related: Fifty years after historic meeting, race still divides Churches of Christ

These were only part of the many awakening statements made in a bi-racial conference on improving race relations in churches of Christ, conducted in this heart-of-Dixie city.

The conference, held at the Hilton Hotel in nearby Hapeville, was organized by three ministers to “be instrumental in creating a dialogue between both races, leading to one brotherhood in Christ.”

Allen, Lawton, Wells

Evangelists Jimmy Allen, Eugene Lawton and R.C. Wells planned the two-day meeting attended by 37 ministers, publishers, businessmen, elders and college officials from both the white and Negro races.

The forum, which began at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, consisted of several speakers plus periods of time allotted for audience discussion.

Lawton, chairman of the Tuesday morning session, stated that the conference was defined as a “gathering together” rather than a “binding on.”

In opening the forum, Lawton, a Newark, N.J., minister, made a plea for unity, calling for a “closer relationship between white and black churches.”

“A segregated church cannot survive in a multi-racial world.”

Spiritual Equality

The first speaker of the day was A.J. Hairston, from Atlanta, who spoke on “Spiritual Equality in Christ.” Hairston gave three steps to spiritual equality. He said that there is a need to believe in one church, to regard racial segregation as sin and to realize that man is a whole being.

Speaking on “The Sin of Racial Discrimination,” Carl Spain, a faculty member at Abilene Christian College said, “We were taught wrong.” Racial discrimination “is evil.” Spain called for a “re-education of us all.”

Related: Two legacies, 50 years later

He continued, “Our basic sin is lying in the handling of the Bible. We have mishandled the word of God. God speaks and we do not hear.”

In giving examples of racial discrimination, it was Spain who recalled having to defend that a Negro has a sou. He concluded that the Bible does not separate men because of race, only because of religious abominations.

Lawton then spoke on the same subject, saying that the “problem of race in the United States is the greatest moral problem.”

“Why can we talk about mixed bathing, election of Catholic presidents, gambling, whiskey and not speak out on the number one problem, racial discrimination?” he asked.

Lawton read a definition of racial discrimination from a dictionary as being “a denial of the rights of a man.” He added, “I’ll tell you what it really is.” He then made a contrast between two sides of a town involving streets, houses, Christian colleges, worship services and hotel facilities.

On a Powder Keg

The Negro minister warned that the church of Christ is “Sitting on a powder keg and the countdown is nearly to zero.”

Lawton, speaking several times during the meeting, made a plea for unity. “1 Thess. 4 says that we are all to be caught up together; if we’re to be caught up together, we must first get together.

“White Christians need black Christians and black Christians need white Christians.”

Laughing Toms

Speaking of changes in the races and in the church of Christ, Lawton added, “Uncle Toms are laughing when they are not tickled and are scratching when they do not itch.”

However, he stated, “The Negro church is learning. The Negro church is learning that [the Negro] must be a man and stand on his own feet, no longer accepting buildings white brethren are vacating.”

Related: No more ‘us and them’

In speaking of the results of racial discrimination, Lawton stated that many young people are leaving the church because of problems of racial discrimination in the church.

David Jones, minister for the all-Negro Shraeder (sic) Lane Church of Christ in Nashville, Tenn., lashed out at Christian colleges.

Last to Integrate

“Our schools were the last to integrate,” he said.

“I charge church of Christ publications with exploitation,” stated R.C. Wells, one of the planners of the meeting, speaking on “Improving Race Relations through Journalism.”

Wells added that the white press is not concerned with the black church. “The black brother is interested in being read as well as reading.”

Jennings Davis Jr.

Pepperdine College’s Jennings Davis Jr., speaking along with Jones on the improvement of race relations in the Christian college, said, “The black students must be heard. They must speak out. We must listen.

“The Christian colleges should be an example on integration.”

Related: Black, white and Gray

Leaving his assigned topic, Davis inserted, “The face we have to deal with is how the black brother feels. You can destroy a man with one word — ‘nigger.’ ”

Jim Bill McInteer, a Nashville minister, also spoke on “Improving Race Relations through Journalism.”

Jesus No Rioter

Dr. Clifton L. Ganus Jr., president of Harding College, spoke to the group on the topic, “Jesus Speaks on Race Relations.” Ganus stated that, “Jesus was not a rioter, but he wanted to change hearts.

“Jesus did not look through colored glasses but saw every man in the light of God’s creation.”

Allen, Harding faculty member and one of the organizers of the conference, revealed, “I’d always thought Adam was a white man, until I was past 30. Then it dawned on me that he might have been a black man.”

Speaking on “Uniting the Brotherhood,” Allen confirmed that “our brotherhood is divided.” He gave several reasons why unity is possible.

Allen pointed out that he early church had unity; unity is a commandment of the Lord; Jesus prayed for unity; and unity is wanted badly by black and white.

Allen said that racial unity was not possible on the basis of politics, on the basis of a prominent figure, but rather was possible through “the Bible and the Bible alone.”

SWCC and an Elder’s Wife

Stating that “the gospel has the power to destroy racism, (sic) Allen recalled working with a church in Arkansas where a group of singers from all-Negro Southwestern Christian College appeared. In Sunday morning worship services, “they sat at the front. An elder’s wife saw the whites and blacks sitting together and would not come in.”

Allen, who finished a campaign meeting in Denver, Colo., the Sunday before the conference, listed 16 ways to practice unity.

Related: ‘Worship is our protest’

Among these was a suggestion to be led by the Spirit. Allen said that “Brotherhood is a fruit of the Spirit.” Other suggestions included a plea to open the doors of Christian colleges and church-related journals to Negroes. He also suggested that Negro evangelists be used on the “Herald of Truth,” a church of Christ-sponsored radio program.

Allen also proposed that Negroes and whites “get together socially.”

No ‘Colored Church’

Talking on segregation, Negro minister R.N. Hogan from Los Angeles, stated, “There is not such thing as a “colored church of Christ. This is division, and division is sinful.”

Humphrey Foutz, Baltimore, Md., pointed out that “Where the church is the strongest is usually where racism is the strongest.” It was Foutz who made the statement, “You want me to lift myself up by my boostraps, but you’re standing on my boots.”

Foutz charged that “a book published by a member of the church of Christ accusing Mr. [Martin Luther] King of being a communist could have contributed to his assassination.”

Landon Saunders from Corning, Ark., and G.P. Holt from Indianapolis, Ind., both spoke on “Improving of Race Relations in the Local Church.”

Walls Erected

Saunders stated, “The cross of Calvary was to destroy all walls, yet we have erected walls, wals of black and white, rich and poor, culturally advantaged and culturally disadvantaged.

“We are not to decide what is right and wrong; it has already been decided and signed in blood. Our motivation must not come from the community; it must come from God. Our responsibility is to bring peace and joy as did King Jesus.”

Related: ‘Sister Keeble’ stayed strong in mind, faith

Holt said that many elders and preaches “conscientiously believe segregation is right.” He called for a re-study of the Bible. “Hears must be changed through teaching God’s Word.”

Holt said, “Racism starts in the home, and the end to racism starts in the home.”

The conference was dismissed late Wednesday afternoon.

Atlanta Race Relations Conference Lists Recommendations for Improvement

Friday, July 12, 1968 – Page 4, The Christian Chronicle

ATLANTA, Ga. — A group of black and white members of the churches of Christ meeting here June 25 and 26 drew up a list of recommendations designed to improve race relations in the churches of Christ.

The group made recommendations regarding local church institutions, the “Herald of Truth,” publishing companies and Christian bookstores, Christian-owned businesses and all Christians.

Church Activities

Several proposals were made regarding local church activities.

  • “Plan race relations workshops for church leaders … in every region of the United States.
  • “Encourage Christians to attend interracial meetings and worship with churches attended by Christians of other races.
  • “Begin serious educational programs in local churches, including sermons, to inform the brethren of the Bible teaching on racial discrimination.
  • “Integrate local congregations as these opportunities exist, seeking to achieve the meaningful involvement of Christians of all races in the total program of the church.
  • “Publicize the fact that the church is open to persons of all races, if this is true.
  • “Plan all cooperative efforts in evangelism and benevolence to include Christians of all races.
  • “Evaluate all missions programs to ascertain if they are based on genuine fraternity, and not paternalism.”

Church-Related Institutions

  • “Increase efforts at Christian colleges to recruit more non-white students.
  • “Consider hiring qualified black teachers and other non-academic personnel at Christian colleges.
  • “Consider appointment of blacks for boards of trustees at Christian colleges.
  • “Totally integrate all social activities at Christian colleges.
  • “Sponsor a race relations workshop on every Christian college campus (making available printed materials on this issue to all students).
  • “Urge Christian college lectureship directors and committees to plan lectureships on the theme of spiritual equality.
  • “Integrate children’s homes, homes for aged, and Christian camps and seek to have integrated staffs, boards of trustees and counselors at camp.
  • “Open all Bible chairs to Christians of all races and seek to integrate (Bible chair) staffs and all social activities.
  • “Integrate the staff of Campus Evangelism. Program and develop interracial materials.”

“Herald of Truth”

Three proposals were directed at the “Herald of Truth” radio and television programs sponsored by the churches of Christ.

  • “Speak courageously on the sin of racial discrimination on both radio and TV programs.
  • “Use black in TV film series in various roles (not simply subservient roles).
  • “Use black speakers on radio and TV in the course of a year.”

Publishing Companies

Publishing companies and bookstores received the following recommendations.

  • “Solicit articles from qualified black writers and ask them to prepare articles on various subjects.
  • “Publish more articles on the issue of racial discrimination and injustice.
  • “Publish more articles on news of activities of black churches and Christians and run photographs of these activities when available.
  • “Develop Bible school literature, books, filmstrips and slides to include proper representation of all races, to aid in the process of identification for minority groups.
  • “Urge Christian publishers and Christian bookstores to seek out qualified perons of all races to assume front-office jobs as well as the other jobs usually assigned to minority groups.”


Christian-owned businesses received the following admonitions.

  • “Urge employment of qualified persons of all races.”
  • “Plan in-training programs to qualify members of minority groups for jobs other than dead-end jobs, offering them the opportunity — if they are qualified — for positions of supervision and management.”

Finally, the convention’s list of proposals turned to “all Christians.”

  • “Affirm without equivocation that equal opportunities in housing, jobs and schooling should be granted to all persons in our democratic society.
  • “Employ one’s influence — political, social, economic, religious — to support these convictions on equal rights and opportunities. (sic)

The conference was held at the Hilton Inn in Hapeville, Ga., near Atlanta.


Filed under: 1968 Atlanta National Race Racial reconciliation and the church Top Stories

Don’t miss out on more stories like this.

Subscribe today to receive more inspiring articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox twice a month.

Did you enjoy this article?

Your donation helps us not only keep our quality of journalism high, but helps us continue to reach more people in the Churches of Christ community.

Personal Info

Dedicate this Donation

In Honor/Memory of Details

Card Notification Details

Credit Card Info
This is a secure SSL encrypted payment.
Billing Details

Donation Total: $3 One Time