Long March Ahead

African American Churches and Public Policy in Post-Civil Rights America

Long March Ahead

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 18 illus. Published: December 2004

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Politics > Political Science, Religious Studies

Analyzing the extensive data gathered by the Public Influences of African American Churches project, which surveyed nearly two thousand churches across the country, Long March Ahead assesses the public policy activism of black churches since the civil rights movement. Social scientists and clergy consider the churches’ work on a range of policy matters over the past four decades: affirmative action, welfare reform, health care, women’s rights, education, and anti-apartheid activism. Some essays consider advocacy trends broadly. Others focus on specific cases, such as the role of African American churches in defeating the “One Florida” plan to end affirmative action in college admissions and state contracting or the partnership forged between police and inner-city black ministers to reduce crime in Boston during the 1990s.

Long March Ahead emphasizes the need for African American churches to complement the excellent work they do in implementing policies set by others by getting more involved in shaping public policy. The contributors explore the efficacy of different means of public policy advocacy and social service delivery, including faith-based initiatives. At the same time, they draw attention to trends that have constrained political involvement by African American churches: the increased professionalization of policy advocacy and lobbying, the underdevelopment of church organizational structures devoted to policy work, and tensions between religious imperatives and political activism. Long March Ahead takes an important look at the political role of African American churches after the great policy achievements of the civil rights era.

Cathy J. Cohen
Megan McLaughlin
Columba Aham Nnorum
Michael Leo Owens
Desiree Pedescleaux
Barbara D. Savage
R. Drew Smith
Emilie Townes
Christopher Winship


“[T]he overall research findings of this volume are compelling. This volume highlights the continued importance of African American churches and ministers in the struggle for social justice in the black community and the necessity for further research on the role of African American religious communities and ministers in U.S. public policy.”
— Korie L. Edwards , Register of the Kentucky Historical Society

“It is important to think carefully and comprehensively about the new public role of black churches. . . . This volume and its companion have provided a beginning for that process, but much more needs to be done to provide a full and satisfying picture of what is left to do.” — James Findlay , Journal of American History

“The essays illuminate the now contested boundaries between faith and politics. . . . . Smith’s two contributions will find their place in graduate seminars on African-American church life. The other contributions should find an audience in classroom and church alike.” — Douglas E. Thompson , Religious Studies Review

“The nine essays in this second volume analyze black church activism on such national public policy issues as affirmative action, health care, welfare reform and public education.” — , Digest

“This [is an] excellent and important collection of case studies, undertaken as part of a very large and evidently ongoing project studying the role of African American churches in contemporary public life. . . .” — Paul Harvey , The Historian

"The interdisciplinary and case study approaches employed, along with the focus on both rural and urban congregations, account for much of the uniqueness and appeal of this volume. . . . Long March Ahead sets a high standard for scholarship on the black church and American public life. It is an achievement of epic scope, and it clearly belongs among the great studies of the black church produced by W.E.B. DuBois, Carter G. Woodson, and others." — Lewis Baldwin, Journal of Church and State

“As a board member of the project researching the Public Influences of African American Churches, I am proud of the degree to which the team of researchers, directed by Dr. R. Drew Smith, illuminated the current impact of the African American church on the various forms of political behavior in its community. The very breadth and scope of this project provides a new research baseline for this subject that will be useful to religious institutions, scholars, and the public as they seek to understand the role of the American church in the life of the nation.” — Dr. Ronald Walters, Distinguished Leadership Scholar and Professor of Government and Politics, University of Maryland, College Park

“R. Drew Smith’s Long March Ahead is an excellent collection of essays which points to the strengths and weaknesses of black churches in the public policy arena. While they remain key mobilizing institutions in black communities, the churches have not developed a coherent voice on significant public policy issues such as welfare reform in the post–civil rights era. Everyone concerned about the future of black churches in the twenty-first century needs to ponder the implications of these important case studies.” — Lawrence H. Mamiya, coauthor of The Black Church in the African American Experience


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

R. Drew Smith is the Director and Principal Investigator for the Public Influences of African-American Churches Project. He is a scholar-in-residence at the Leadership Center at Morehouse College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Introduction, R. Drew Smith 1

1. Assessing the Public Policy Practices of African American Churches / R. Drew Smith 9

2. African American Churches, Affirmative Action, and the Campaign against the One Florida Plan / Barbara Dianne Savage 28

3. The Role of African American Churches in Crafting the 1996 Welfare Reform Policy / Megan E. McLaughlin 51

4. Contestant, Advocate, Implementer Social Services and the Policy Roles of African American Churches / Michael Leo Owens 73

5. Service Provider or Policymaker? Black Churches and the Health of African Americans / Cathy J. Cohen 103

6. African American Churches and Reproductive Health Rights / Emilie M. Townes 127

7. African American Clergy and Urban School Reform / Desiree Pedescleaux 144

8. End of a Miracle? Crime, Faith, and Partnership in Boston in the 1990s / Christopher Winship 171

9. African American Churches and the Evolution of Antiapartheid Activism / Columba Aham Nnorum 193

Appendix A: An Overview of National Sample for the 1999-2000 Black Churches and Politics Survey 217

Appendix B: PIAAC Project Overview 219

Contributors 233

Index 235
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Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-3358-6
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