A small group of anti-American black revolutionaries began a campaign of open persecution this month against white churches and synagogues. In a 2,500-word “Black Manifesto” they vowed church seizures, disruptions, and demonstrations and demanded half a billion dollars in “reparations” from the American Christian-Jewish community.
“To win our demands we will have to declare war on the white Christian churches and synagogues and this means we may have to fight the total government structure of this country,” the manifesto said.
The initial confrontation came May 4 when James Forman, reputed author of the manifesto, stopped a Sunday-morning worship service at New York’s fashionable Riverside Church. Forman stood in the altar area after the opening hymn and began to read a series of demands. The Rev. Ernest T. Campbell led the choir out, and the service never did resume.
The same day, the manifesto’s demands were read during a similar disruption by blacks at the First United Presbyterian Church of San Francisco.
Two days earlier, Forman had appeared before the General Board of the National Council of Churches to air the manifesto. The board had expressed its thanks to Forman and agreed to send the document to its constituent denominations for “study.” The NCC General Secretary was instructed to submit relevant recommendations to a June 23 meeting of the council’s executive committee, which was given special broad powers to act.
The “Black Manifesto” came out of a “National Black Economic Development Conference” held on the Detroit campus of Wayne State University April 25–27. The conference, which drew about 600, was co-sponsored by a number of agencies, including some from the NCC, the Episcopal Church, and the Interreligious Foundation ...1
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