America’s three major Negro Baptist groups reacted differently as the smoke and shame of riot hung over the Watts ghetto of Los Angeles last month.

The three met simultaneously in different cities three weeks after Watts. The most activist denomination on civil rights, the Progressive National Baptist Convention, convened at Los Angeles’ Zion Hill Baptist Church, on the fringe of the riot zone. But the riot seemed just as near at meetings in Jacksonville (National Baptist Convention, U. S. A., Inc.) and Houston (National Baptist Convention of America).

Two of the conventions are offshoots of the third and largest Negro body, the “Inc.” organization personified by its president of thirteen years, Chicago’s Dr. Joseph H. Jackson. He and his convention have been branded “Uncle Tom” by militant civil rights workers for their conservatism.

The “unincorporated” National Baptists stand somewhere in the middle on civil rights. Their president for eight years, Dr. C. D. Pettaway of Little Rock, Arkansas, has been cautious, but this year’s convention implied support of direct action and civil disobedience.

If the three conventions ever got together, they could represent a bloc of nearly nine million Negroes.Current membership claims: National Inc., 5.5 million; National unincorporated, 2.8 million; Progressives, 500,000. But union is unlikely, despite lack of doctrinal differences. The two National conventions are more friendly now than in the past, but their schism dates to 1916. The Progressives left National, Inc., in 1962 after great turmoil at the latter’s 1961 convention (see News, September 25, 1961).

The Progressives pressed a stronger civil rights stand and repudiated the one-man image they felt National, Inc., had developed under ...

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