Resisting Jim Crow Colonialism: Black Christianity and the International Roots of the Civil Rights Movement
This chapter identifies a network of black Christian activists and intellectuals who looked abroad, even to other religious traditions, for ideas and practices that could transform American democracy. Their connections with independence and anticolonial leaders throughout Asia and Africa demonstrate how the U.S. civil rights movement was part of a global wave of anticolonial movements. The essay examines three episodes of this larger history: Howard Thurman’s visit to South Asia in 1935–1936; Pauli Murray’s use of satyagraha to protest her arrest on a bus in 1940; and Bayard Rustin’s engagement with nonviolence and anticolonialism in West Africa in the early 1950s. Their intellectual and activist labors challenged American democracy and American Christianity to embody the racial egalitarianism they believed each promised.