How Did the Cold War and Church Relate to the Civil Rights Movement? (Worksheet)

March 1960

Sit-down strike after being refused service at a F.W. Woolworth luncheon counter, Greensboro, N.C., February 2, 1960.
CREDIT: Library of Congress

In 1960, the United States was engaged in an ideological campaign against the Soviet Union, declaring that freedom and democracy would prevail in the global order. At home, as evidenced by lunch counter sit-ins, it was clear that these "American principles" were not being applied to minority groups.

With this as a backdrop, the editors of WORLDVIEW magazine presented three main arguments in a March 1960 front page op-ed:

1. "...one of the most important challenges we face in the Cold War is to set our own house in order, because a nation that is unwilling or unable to secure justice within its own borders cannot hope to be the symbol and defender of justice for the rest of the world."

2. "It is still a bitter fact that in the United States 11 A.M. on Sunday is the most segregated hour in the week. America's Churches, on the whole, have a sorry history here; in their approach to Negro rights they have lagged behind the best insights of the secular-humanist conscience; they have rationalized and temporized and, sometimes, connived with injustice. For all this they have much to answer. Perhaps their major role in the social order now is to guide and speed the real emancipation of the American Negro that has finally begun."

3. "The most damaging disservice that can be done to American society—and to America's image in the world—is a continued denial to any “other” group of participation in the full opportunity of American life. The test for America’s maturity and claim to world leadership will be its success in dealing with its own minority problems."

The one-page op-ed is available in .doc form on the right sidebar. Discussion questions can be found below. This activity works well in an American history class.

WORLDVIEW magazine ran from 1958-85 and featured articles by political philosophers, scholars, churchmen, statesmen, and writers from across the political spectrum.


Discussion Questions:

1. Why did the authors link the Civil Rights movement to the Cold War?

2. Why do the authors suggest that religious groups should play a larger role in the Civil Rights movement? Do you agree or disagree with their argument?

3. Do you see any connections between this op-ed and the United States today? Do the same problems still exist or has the country evolved?

4. The authors state that the main challenge is "...whether the American promise shall finally be made real for groups other than one's own." Has this been achieved? Why or why not? What did it/would it take to achieve this goal?