In 1893 Booker T. Washington took a train ride of more than two thousand miles round trip from Boston for a sixty-minute visit to Atlanta. His sole purpose was to give a five-minute address at the convention of the International Christian Workers Association, which had provided his first chance to speak before a predominantly white audience in the South. While the significance of this event is relatively well known (in that this remarkable dedication of the black educator led directly toward his opportunity two years later to gain international attention for his cause in his famous “Atlanta Exposition Address”), an incidental aspect of the story points to a characteristic of the American evangelical heritage that has been largely forgotten.

The organization to which Washington spoke, the International Christian Workers Association, was a gathering of men who in the next generation would be known as “fundamentalists.” Its president was Reuben A. Torrey, later a founder and the dean of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA), an editor of The Fundamentals, and an organizer of the World Christian Fundamentals Association. The board of directors included as well such evangelical leaders as A. J. Gordon, founder of the schools that now bear his name, and James E. Gray, who later was for many years the president of Moody Bible Institute and a prominent spokesman for the fundamentalist cause.

In the late decades of the nineteenth century, these men, together with their associates in the influential Christian Workers Association, were promoting a wide variety of evangelistic and humanitarian programs directed largely toward the poor and the outcasts throughout American society, especially in the cities. Evangelism was their chief ...

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