Only 13% Black Churches Supported Rev. Martin Luther King during Civil Rights Movement

selma bloody sunday

(Postscript updated April 2, 2018)….Perhaps you were not born in 1968 or maybe you didn’t focus on key facts of the Civil Rights Movement……..or maybe the recent media portrayal of Dr. King as a beloved martyr (although well deserved) is your reality?  However,  the facts are clear as pointed out in Dr. Day’s work.   As the world is preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary since Dr. King was assassinated, yesterday CBS’s Sunday Morning had an interesting clip featuring Marc Morial and his mother reflecting on their family’s friendship with Dr. King.  More important, you will hear (the 2:41 mark of the 7 minute clip) Marty King, III state unequivocal how his father’s popularity had declined in the mid to late 60’s and prior to his assassination.

“In many cases he was hated and despised in 1968,” Marty King, III


(Postscript updated January 2018…..for those who may find this fact or number unbelievable I would suggest you contact Dr. Day like I did. Further, I personally spoke to Rev. Wright TWICE about this issue to confirm I was not dreaming! Still I understand some will remain in denial or dismiss Dr. Day’s work and/or otherwise marginalize her scholarship instead of providing documentation to the contrary)

At the time of the initial post the 48th Anniversary of the Selma Jubilee had just concluded.  For those who are not aware, the anniversary is significant as it marks the day when peaceful protesters were attempting to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge leaving Selma, AL and heading into highway 80.  The scene shocked the nation and has been indicated as one of those seminal historic events as it was one critical event which helped persuade President Johnson to sign the 1965 Voting Rights act.

selma dr. jeremiah wright

Rev., Dr. Jeremiah Wright

The event featured many speakers.  Among them was the legendary Rev., Dr. Jeremiah Wright.  He was part of a panel fielding various questions and one lady was asking about the role of the church?  Dr. Wright unabashedly recanted that most would be surprised,  “Let me say it this way………Dr. Keri Day of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas recently published a book which documents the period Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was planning the “Poor People’s” campaign that  ONLY 13% OF BLACK CHURCHES supported him!!!”

Why is  that statement shocking????….. it’s the reality of ONLY 13%……. which makes many pause.  No doubt in death Dr. King enjoys martydom, but in reality and in particular during his ministry of leading the Civil Rights struggles many churches feared and or otherwise were intimidated from showing support of the movement.

More noteworthy is all the struggles and victories Dr. King led, including the infamous ’65 Selma to Montgomery March,  For those who may have forgotten, it was Dr. King’s focus on poverty which led to organizing the Poor People’s campaign in 1968. Unfortunately he was assassinated before the event took place.  But, in his place, his loyal assistant, Rev. Ralph Abernathy did his best to fulfill it.

On the other side of the coin; no doubt many churches probably wanted to support “the movement” and could not be as visible as they wished.  So, another question is what number of churches offered support but were in the shadows?

While many claim to have participated in the Civil Rights struggle, a good majority simply could not muster up the courage to participate.  During the Martin and Coretta breakfast held during Jubilee weekend, even keynote speaker Vice President Joe Biden apologized numerous times of not having the strength to join those during the turbulent ’60’s.

Think about it……13%, which translates that 87% of Black Churches did not support Dr. King.  To be clear on this point, no doubt during the peak of the struggle many more churches supported the movement.  However, as the years passed and Dr. King became more vocal towards the Vietnam war as well as other activities which were draining resources that were projected to help fight “the war on poverty” some felt he should “cool it!”   Thus the movement became a target for institutional criticism or the notion its battles were irrelevant.  As of press time, the full report has been requested from Dr. Day for future publishing, as in the words of Dr. King…….”No lie can live forever.”

Another good thing about the Jubilee is it forces people to analyze and put an accurate perspective of what actually occurred during the movement.  Finally, the Bloody Sunday event was a pivotal turning point for many to come to accept, american citizens were being brutalized……just for wanting to exercise their right by casting a vote.  48 years later is not that long ago!!!  This is why it is ludicrous for the Supreme Court to hear arguments about Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

If you are a Sirius customer you can listen to Joe Madison’s recap of the 2013 Jubilee Crossing by clicking the link.  Dr. Wright’s comments are 1hr. 29 minutes into the 4 hour program   CLICK HERE


** Dr. Day’s Book,  “Unfinished Business: Black Women, the Black Church, and the Struggle to Thrive in America” has been out since September.  Those who are students of “the movement” or simply want a better perspective of how Black Churches will find it a must read.

Dr. Keri Day


12 Responses to “Only 13% Black Churches Supported Rev. Martin Luther King during Civil Rights Movement”
  1. Larry Dague says:

    Why is it a surprise? Organized religion thrives on keeping people ignorant and subservient. The smarter the congregation gets the more they begin to challenge fairy tales. It’s either that or the 87 percent didn’t want to rock the boat and were “ok” with oppression, beatings and lynchings.

    I bet there is a study that said that 80 percent of Jews thought their treatment in German concentration camps was “not all that bad”

    • Michael P Dougherty says:

      I really never heard the 13%issue very surprising to me. I guess back then everything was a stereotype, and some stayed to themselves for fearing repercussions! Not sure I was 14 yrs old…just my opinion.

      • fredyt3 says:

        Michael – thanks for chiming in. That was the same reaction when I heard it and that motivated me to contact Dr. Day directly, and of course grab the book. Even today I am surprised how some attempt to dismiss her thesis but that is the conclusion of her analysis, so until hers is refutted with documentation it will stand……at least in my world.

    • I have always believed that the Black Church conspired to have Dr. King Killed, as Washington conspired to have the Niagara movement discredited, the Black Church unfortunately has been a prescribing member of the ” Cast thy Bucket ” mandate of Mr. Washington. They have been a subversive group in the Black Community ever since this historic address by Mr. Washington. I believe that the Black Church had as much to do with Dr. Kings death as did the FBI.

  2. Kevin says:

    Wait, I’m confused. The title of the article says that only 13% of Black churches supported him in the Civil Rights movement, but in the article it says that only 13% supported him in the Poor People’s Campaign of 1968 right before he was assassinated and while it was still in the beginning stages of development. The civil rights era began in the 1950’s and there is historical documentation of the black church being heavily involved, that’s why they were getting bombed and set fire to like crazy.

    • fredyt3 says:

      Thanks for reply. No doubt, the Black church was the cornerstone of the movement but the thrust of the article which highlights Dr. Day’s analysis is as the movement waned and support declined up until Dr. King’s assassination. Nevertheless your comment is profound and shows how thriving support can be marginalized.

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