Unitarian Universalist African American History

A history of race relations in the denomination seen through the lens of a post-slavery US and taught in St. Louis during the midst of the Ferguson crisis.

Curriculum created and taught by Rose Schwab.


Week One: Intro to African American US and UU History 
integrated Universalist school 1900;s

Image of the Jordan Day School, a Universalist institution in Norfolk, VA.


Overview of class: What can we learn by looking back into our religious history? Our national history?  In order to fully comprehend the religious/racial climate of today, we remember that slavery ended 170 short years ago; we continue to struggle through an extended period of reconstruction. This class will view our present racial and and national situation in direct correlation to the recent history of massive trans-atlantic slave trade and civil war.  

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination: Chapter 1: Two American Faiths

Journal prompt: what is your faith history?  What was the racial make-up of your religious community?  Can you point to a moment when you first experienced racial difference?


Week Two: 1900-1950.  A Case Study Rev. Egbert Ethelred Brown and Annie Willis
Annie Willis

Annie Willis, a devout Universalist who ran a school for impoverished children in Virginia. Her father was a Universalist Minister.


Overview of Class: Where have we as a denomination failed to support African American leaders and religious people?

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed, Black Pioneers in a White Denomination: A Dream Aborted

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed, ed.  Darkening the Doorways:  Annie B Willis

Journal Prompt: As we read the stories of perseverance in the face of blockages and injustice, what aspects of their stories relate to your own life?  Either as the one who created/creates a blockage, or the one who was/is blocked?


Week Three: Mid 20th Century.  Successful integrated congregation: Rev. Lewis A McGee and Jeffrey Worthington Campbell.

Jeffery Campbell speaking at St. Lawrence University.


Overview of Class: Levels of oppression: were the doors really open?  What are our experiences with the difference between what people say and what people do?  How is this playing out in our own wider community right now (in regards to Ferguson)?

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed,  Black Pioneers in a White DenominationA Dream Pursued

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed, ed.  Darkening the Doorways:  128-129, Jeffrey Worthington Campbell and Marguerite Campbell Davis.  

Journal question: have you ever been in a situation where you are only partly seen?  What was it like to live in that space? How do you reflect on that now, and what advice would you give yourself for getting through that?


Week Four: 1960-2000. Unitarian Universalist Merger and the Black Empowerment Controversy
black empowerment controversy

Supporters of the Black Affairs Council commandeered the microphones and demanded a new agenda at the 1969 UUA General Assembly. (Steven H. Hansen, UUA Now/UUA Archives, Andover-Harvard Theological Library)


Overview: What are our more recent roots?  How does the Black Empowerment Controversy continue to affect us today? What can you pinpoint as the root of the controversy?

Warren Ross, The Premise and The Promise: page 6-11 (story of merger) and page 41-56, (the racial split)

Is there a time when you have been done?  Or, a time when you have wanted badly to heal but have had no idea how?


Week Five: Current Day: Intersectionality and Our Role as Religious People
fav image from ferguson

A young man throwing tear gas back into the police lines in Ferguson, MO.


Overview of class: As we face a racially charged crisis around us, what is our role as religious people?  How can we, as citizens of St. Louis, be participants and allies in Ferguson?

Rev. Mark Morrison Reed,  Black Pioneers in a White DenominationIntegration where it counts wrap up

Rev. Dr. James Cone: Theology’s Greatest Sin: Silence in the Face of White Supremacy

Where are you intersectionally located?  How do you see intersectionality at play in Ferguson?  In your other communities? What is your reaction to this image?





dr, mark mo

Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, who has done incredible research on African American UU History.  Much of the class is based off of his research.