As we all know, the kneel-ins was a mass undertaking during the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, our hometown of Memphis was by far the most prevalent place for the religious protest. I tend wonder why these protests tend to be overlooked when studying the movement. Stephen Haynes recently published the book, The Last Segregated Hour. In the introduction, he sheds to light this over powering question, as he names them the “Forgotten Protests.” We have to wonder why. Why have we “forgotten” these groundbreaking religious movements? Not only were the kneel ins important for equality in the religious institutions, but also for civil rights as a whole.
Was it because these protests rarely ever became violent? Additionally, Haynes points out that they were barely any arrests from the kneel in protests. I’ve only read the introduction to his book but it really got me thinking about the kneel ins and they role in the movement. Even though the church is the house of God and the worship place for Christianity, it at one time was the most exclusive place. Church is very traditional and every culture has their own way of practicing. It amazes me that Christians could be so exclusive when one of Jesus’ main philosophies was love. We must love our neighbor. Why was this so hard for White Southerners to do?
Places of worship are supposed to be sacred and full of love. Whites had essentially inherited the “racist trait.” Therefore, trying to change this inherited trait is nearly impossible. It requires breaking down social barriers that were set up long before our time. I am in awe while sitting here thinking about how these “so called Christians” could deliberately exclude and completely disregard someone from worshiping the Lord. Am I wrong by saying that one of the main pillars that Christianity sits on is evangelism? By denying someone access to learn about the Lord, they are essentially disobeying God. In the book by Haynes, he mentions the time when 2 college students were turned away from the local Second Presbyterian Church. Try to imagine going to a church today at your age and being denied access to worship.
At the bottom of my post, I have put the link to a photo from the kneel in period. I think this photograph is quite thought provoking as it shows the white’s response to the kneel ins. I believe that this was taken at a Presbyterian church here in Memphis, but I’m not positive of this. As you can see, the white people of this church have linked arms to black the black protesters from worshiping here.