“He Belonged to All the Races”: The Evolution of Graham’s Race Ethics
“Southern-born, I was reared in a community where typically Southern attitudes prevailed. If there were Negroes who chafed in their status as second-class citizens, I was not aware of them.”1 As a child in North Carolina, young Billy Graham was raised by parents supportive of Jim Crow, attended segregated schools and churches, drank at “whites only” water fountains, shopped in stores that refused service to African Americans, and benefited from the everyday labors of African Americans on the Graham farm. It is little wonder that he adopted the racist attitudes of the rural South “without much reflection.”2 Graham’s early racism, however, was more than just a matter of not seeing African Americans chafe under second-class citizenship; young Billy also did his own small part to keep Jim Crow alive and kicking in North Carolina in the 1930s and 1940s. Biographer Marshall Frady, for example, reports that Graham adamantly refused to join his white friends for trips to “colored” barbershops, saying: “‘Long as there’s a white barbershop in Charlotte, I’ll never have my haircut at a nigger barbershop. Never.’”3.
KeywordsSupreme Court Ruling Nobel Peace Prize White Power Race Question African American Leader
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- 5.Quoted in Jerry Beryl Hopkins, “Billy Graham and the Race Problem, 1949–1969” (Ph.D. diss., University of Kentucky, 1986), 15. Although I disagree with some of his interpretations, I am greatly indebted to Hopkins’s excellent and carefully documented dissertation.Google Scholar
- For more on the topic, see James French, “Billy Graham’s Role in the Civil Rights Movement” (M.A. thesis, California State University, 1975);Google Scholar
- and Michael D. Hammond, “Conscience in Conflict: Neo-Evangelicals and Race in the 1950s” (M.A. thesis, Wheaton College Graduate School, 2002).Google Scholar
- 10.Earnest Albert Hooten, Up from the Apes (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1931), 592–593, quoted in Hopkins, “Billy Graham and the Race Problem,” 19.Google Scholar
- 35.For the most cogent articulation of this position, see James Cone, Black Theology & amp; Black Power (New York, NY: Seabury Press, 1969).Google Scholar
- 84.Mark Silk, Spiritual Politics: Religion and America Since World War II (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 1988), 64.Google Scholar
- 85.Grant Wacker, “Uneasy in Zion: Evangelicals in Postmodern Society,” in Evangelicalism and Modern America, ed. George Marsden (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1984), 27.Google Scholar