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“The Saints Go Marching”: Black Pentecostal Critical Consciousness and the Political Protest Activism of Pastors and Leaders in the Church of God in Christ in the Civil Rights Era

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AbstractAlthough black Pentecostal leaders are known for their emphasis on holiness and spiritual empowerment, they are not renowned for having led and spearheaded political protest struggles during the Civil Rights movement. In this paper I discuss black Pentecostals’ postures toward political protest struggles, and I analyze reasons why some black Pentecostals participated in the Civil Rights movement while others did not. My central argument is that critical consciousness formation played an integral role in motivating a minority of Church of God in Christ (COGIC) clergy and leaders to engage in Civil Rights protest struggles. That is to say, many black Pentecostals who took part in the movement reconciled their strivings for spiritual empowerment against evil with critical reflection upon complex social, political, and economic realities. They recognized the utility of opposing structures of oppression through direct, nonviolent means.

Affiliations: 1: Rice University Department of Religious StudiesHouston,


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