Desktop version

Home arrow Religion

  • Increase font
  • Decrease font

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Religion and the civic landscape: The case of the Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation

Mark Wild

Los Angeles has long been noted for its diverse religious landscape. This diversity mirrors the qualities that led the historian Robert Fogelson to describe that city as a “fragmented metropolis” - a patchwork of municipalities harboring populations riven by race, class, and culture (Fogelson 1993). In some other cities, a handful of large faith groups created a relatively strong religious presence in civic affairs (see Demerath and Williams 1992, Famsley et al. 2005, Hardy 1991, Pratt 2004, Arvella 2008, Mapes 2004). But Los Angeles’s particular ecclesial mix - a Protestant population with many non-denominational congregations and a relatively weak mainline presence, a Catholic population with many ethnic Mexicans but few leaders of Mexican ancestry, and a larger than usual percentage of non-Jewish/Christian faith communities - has not been conducive to marshaling such influence. Richard Flory, Brie Loskota, and Donald Miller argue that diversity and fragmentation have, over the years, exacerbated social tensions and hampered the coordination of religious groups addressing social justice issues in Los Angeles. Even the most robust religious activism has often added up to less than the sum of its parts (Flory et al. 2011).

This chapter examines the challenges posed by secular and religious fragmentation for ecumenical campaigns to reform Los Angeles’s social order. It uses a case study of the largely forgotten Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation. The history of the Committee, which formed in 1937 and dissolved in 1951, illuminates the dilemmas that confronted religious leaders as they attempted to carve out a role for themselves during a pivotal period in the city’s religious history. The Committee joined a growing number of organizations with increasingly diverse constituencies - most of them secular - that crowded the table of civic affairs. Its leadership, already familiar with the challenges of interfaith cooperation, struggled to define its purpose and capabilities in this changing civic landscape. Ultimately, the Committee elected, at the expense of its own influence, to work toward broadening clergy participation in other organizations.

The Committee’s quandary helps to explain why ecumenical organizations in Los Angeles have struggled to cohere into effective, enduring mechanisms of reform. If Demerath is correct about the mutual influence of structure and culture in the evolution of organized religion (Demerath 1998, Zald and McCarthy 1998, 27), then, particularly in the arena of civic engagement, mid-twentieth century religious leaders had to account for the presence of other civic actors. The diffusion of religious energies into secular institutions may have preserved a religious presence in a dynamic and unstable environment, but it undermined the power of religious leaders to shape campaigns for civic reform social justice. Religion retained its power in the cultural life of Los Angeles, but that power did not translate to an equivalent level of civic influence for Catholic, Jewish, and mainline Protestant leaders.

The push for interfaith cooperation and civic engagement embodied in the Committee’s formation followed from the confluence of forces that had been isolating groups by class, race, and faith in Los Angeles for decades. In the religious sphere, at least, it had not always been so. Michael Engh has uncovered various levels of cooperation among Jews, Catholics, and Protestants in the years immediately following the Mexican American War. This symbiosis evolved partly out of necessity, as each group lacked the resources to meet the spiritual and social needs of its community on its own. The growth of the Protestant population by the end of the nineteenth century allowed it to wind down many of these alliances (Engh 1992). As religious groups matured in subsequent decades, internal divisions appeared. The Jewish community became split between an older, more assimilated and prosperous group and a larger population of new settlers, many of them working class immigrants. Catholics faced tensions between a large ethnic Mexican population and a largely European clergy. The ascendant Protestants -during the early twentieth century, Los Angeles had one of the highest percentages of native-born Whites among major American cities - were most fractured of all. Like most western cities, Los Angeles’ distance from denominational headquarters reduced the influence of national Protestant bodies. A wide spectrum of churches, from very liberal to quite conservative, dotted the city, with different faith organizations participating on their own terms in the civic life of Los Angeles (Fogelson 1993, Engh 1997, Roof 2007, 85-86).

As in other cities across the country, each religious community developed its own institutions for engaging the civic life and social welfare of Los Angeles. For much of the nineteenth century, Christians and Jews claimed primary jurisdiction over the social welfare and public charity efforts in American cities, but by the early 1900s they shared these responsibilities with a growing array of labor unions, business groups, ethnic organizations, women’s clubs, and government agencies. The form and function of these civic actors blurred the distinction between religious and secular activities.1 In one of the fastest growing cities in the country, demand for sendees out-paced this build-up, and the fragmented politics of Los Angeles limited the potential impact of any individual religious group (Feldman 2003, Leader 1991).2

The Great Depression of the 1930s snapped the already strained social welfare net. A series of civic crises, including the explosive growth of the homeless population, engulfed the city. The advent of New Deal federal programs designed to address these crises spread yet another layer of government bureaucracy over Los Angeles. The New Deal subordinated the role of religious institutions even as it provided new opportunities for engagement. As historians like Maty Mapes, Henry Pratt, and Beth Wenger have shown, Christian and Jewish organizations across the country came to embrace the principles of the New Deal even if they declined to participate in it themselves. Gradually, the major religious communities acclimated to their reduced role (Mapes 2004, 12-31, Pratt 1972, 13-17, Wenger 1999).

Thus, when the Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish clergy who made up the founding membership of the Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation first convened in 1937, the future of religion’s civic involvement in the city was unclear. Of course, they were not the first religious leaders in the city to serve in a civic capacity. Numerous clergy had previously occupied positions on bodies like the Chamber of Commerce or exerted political influence through relationships with politicians (Engh 1997, 478-479). Yet the Committee departed from the traditional pattern by creating a role for religion with the appropriation of public funds.

It is not clear whether anyone at the time recognized the oddity of a government-sanctioned body comprised of clergy. The narrowness of the original vision may have accounted for the lack of comment. The idea for the Committee came from Supervisor Koger Jessup, a staunch Republican who represented the most conservative district in the county. It was to focus exclusively on juvenile delinquency. Jessup’s original name for it, the “Morals Education Committee,” suited his political orientation, and identified the Committee’s original mandate more clearly than its subsequent appellation.3 The Board of Supervisors authorized funds for a secretary and placed the Committee under the supervision of the Probation Department.4

For reasons that are unclear, Jessup’s influence was quickly supplanted by his ideological opposite on the Board, Supervisor John Anson Ford, and by the Committee’s first Secretary, George Gleason. Ford was a minister’s son and a member of the Mt Hollywood Congregational Church, led by the well-known pacifist pastor Allan Hunter.5 Gleason, a friend of Ford’s, had spent almost twenty years as a YMCA missionary in Japan. After returning to the United States, he led the Los Angeles chapter of the YMCA and helped to launch the Survey on Race Relations, a study of Asian and other non-White populations on the West Coast of the United States and Canada. He believed that eliminating racial prejudice against immigrants would aid evangelization efforts both at home and abroad. Gleason clashed with the survey’s director, the eminent sociologist Robert Park (who felt the missionary’s agenda jeopardized the project’s scientific objectivity) and condemned anti-Japanese sentiment in the United States with such vehemence that his colleagues, fearing he would alienate “moderate” supporters, removed him from the project (Griffith 2013, Yu 2001, 21-29).

The Committee’s original members lacked any such political edge. They reflected instead Protestantism’s social dominance in Los Angeles and the emergence of the “goodwill” movement to promote better relationships among religious communities.6 Protestant members included the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles and leaders of other prominent congregations. The Catholic representative, Monsignor Thomas O’Dwyer, was completing his term as President of the National Conference of Catholic Charities. The Jewish representative, Rabbi Edgar Magnin, led the successful Wilshire Boulevard Temple and was already involved in civic projects around the city. Together they comprised a fairly representative sample of the White religious establishment in Los Angeles, the group most likely to support such interfaith activity. Only First Congregational Church’s James Fifield, “a preacher of the old fire-and-brimstone school,” as the Times later remembered him, qualified as a theological conservative (McWilliams 1948).7

Initially the Committee kept to its charge, launching a series of youth programs in targeted districts to provide recreational opportunities, education, and job training. In many ways, its activities resembled the work conducted by settlement houses since the late nineteenth century. The difference, for religious workers at least, was the degree to which the Committee drew itself and local congregations into partnerships with secular institutions like neighborhood councils (called coordinating councils in Los Angeles), the University of Southern California, the Sheriffs department, and other extant organizations.8 The rationale followed from the Committee’s sense of religion’s waning influence on society, particularly its youth. Reasoning that churches no longer attracted young people’s energies, Gleason decided to insert the Committee, and by extension religion, into the schools and other public spheres they did frequent.9

This approach set the tone for the Committee as it gradually and independently broadened its purview into labor and race relations. The onset of World War II provided the proximate justification, as city leaders and institutions of all stripes mobilized to promote freedom, democracy, and civility on the home front, lest dissension undermine the war effort. They added to longstanding efforts, often centered in Jewish and non-White circles, to combat discrimination in the region. When, in 1939, Gleason exhorted his countrymen to undergird the fortress of its democracy by promoting “constructive group experiences” in public life, he was echoing a sentiment that was already widespread.10 The war’s threat to social order was apparent. Mobilization drew hundreds of thousands of people to Los Angeles from around the country and the world; an acute housing shortage developed, and racial and other social tensions flared in the streets (Bernstein 2011, 28—99, Leonard 2006, Verge 2001).

The Committee moved to execute its new agenda and broaden its cooperative network; on April 3, 1941, it convened a meeting on “Los Angeles Community Unity in the National Crisis.” Over a hundred invitees, including civic, business, and labor leaders, and a smattering of representatives from the city’s racial minorities, attended.11 Out of this gathering emerged a “Community Unity” project, sponsored by the Committee, with four “commissions” - dealing respectively with race, religion, labor relations, and “public opinion” - to mediate internal conflicts that might undermine preparedness efforts. As articulated by Willsie Martin, Methodist minister and Committee member, this project sought to forestall “fifth column activities” that might “flourish in fields of dissension ... race, religion, industrial relations, and areas of discussion surrounding the exercise of freedom of speech.”12

The Community Unity project encapsulated the Committee’s strategy for extending religious influence into civic affairs. It broadened the base of official representation both numerically and demographically; by September of that year memberships ranged from 23 in the religion commission to 58 in the racial commission, and included members of various ethnic, racial, religious, and professional backgrounds. Willsie Martin argued that it “was making an effort to use the resources of personal ability within the community rather than to have the Committee do all of the work itself.”13 But even as they drew in secular participants, the commissions guaranteed the presence of at least a few religious leaders under the purview of a Committee that they controlled. In this way they served to insert clergy into secular spheres of activity.

Before long the Committee was formulating plans to expand the power and independence of the commissions. In the fall of 1941, the Industrial Commission proposed the establishment of a “Los Angeles County and City Industrial Relations Council.” It suggested that Martin chair the new body, that the Church Committee designate a second member, and that the remaining slots be divided among government, business, and labor representatives. The idea was abandoned after federal officials, following Pearl Harbor, began to discuss formulating a national labor policy that would supersede their efforts.14 But it offered a preview of the Committee’s subsequent strategy.

The Racial Unity Commission responded to the war’s escalation of racial tension. Japanese Angelenos, for instance, faced heightened discrimination even before the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the fall of 1941 Gleason and the Commission tried to organize yet another organization - composed, by design, of White leaders - to combat anti-Japanese sentiment. Pearl Harbor interrupted this campaign. After the attack the Church Committee set itself up as a selfdeclared liaison between the Japanese community and local government.15 The subsequent relocation of ethnic Japanese to concentration camps put longstanding proponents of racial tolerance in a predicament. A full-throated denunciation of internment was dangerous in that political climate. Gleason, speaking for the Committee, called for a “selective” rather than “mass evacuation” in what the historian Ellen Eisenberg describes as a “tortured” address to a Congressional Committee.16 Nonetheless a dust-up ensued when the American Legion, perhaps aware of Gleason’s previous history, deemed the language in a Committee pamphlet to be subversive, forcing Gleason to reassure everyone of his loyalty. These events cowed the Racial Unity Commission. Its records indicate no meetings following Pearl Harbor until a reconstituted version of the group met in November 1942.17

The Racial Unity Commission quickly acquired members of many different races, but the Church Committee itself did not follow suit. In April 1943 Gleason, convinced once more that the Committee’s ambitions exceeded its resources, proposed doubling its membership to 15. His nominations were all White men from the religious establishment.18 This proposal fit the Committee’s practice. In the late 1930s, for instance, Gleason and other members had met with Black clergymen to discuss issues relating to “Negro delinquency,” and subsequently the Committee sought to identify an African-American pastor to “consult with” on its work in Black neighborhoods. But despite their requests to serve on any committee studying their community, Blacks -along with Latinos and Asians — were left off the membership. When Loren Miller, the noted civil rights attorney, suggested in 1944 that the Committee appoint a Black member, it created a subcommittee to “study” the issue. Its findings were not recorded, nor do any other records explain why a group so engaged in race relations refused to integrate its own board.1

The Committee’s silence on this issue contrasted with its aggressive efforts to integrate the networks of civic leadership. The Zoot Suit riots in the summer of

  • 1943, in which White servicemen assaulted Mexican American youth, was the most publicized example of pervasive racial conflict in the streets and defense factories (Pagan 2006, Leonard 1991, Sides 2004). Shortly thereafter a secular, multiracial group calling itself the Committee for American Unity called for a “permanent committee representing all sections of the community having for the purpose the extinction of racial discrimination.” The Church Committee took up the challenge, and held an organizing meeting that included several members of the Unity Committee, including the White journalist Carey McWilliams and African-American activist Floyd Covington.20 Several months later, in January
  • 1944, the Board of Supervisors approved their proposal to create a Los Angeles County Committee on Interracial Progress and to split Gleason’s secretarial duties between the two committees.21

Some correspondence in the records implies that the Interracial Progress Committee’s more inclusive representation - not just of racial groups, but of secular interests like labor and business - was a direct response to the Church Committee’s lack of diversity.22 By this point ethnic and race-based organizations were more successfully asserting their presence in the civic spheres of Los Angeles and were forming alliances with establishment organizations (Bernstein 2011, Varzally 2008, Johnson 2013, 1-47). Religious leaders who represented a wider spectrum of the city’s population than the Church Committee did joined the Interracial Committee, but the overall representation of religious groups was small. By mid-1944 it had 39 members, seven of whom were clergy. Of the original Church Committee, only Magnin and Gleason joined the new effort.23

The Interracial Committee contributed to the proliferation, already well underway, of civic relations bodies in Los Angeles. Older organizations like the Urban League and the Jewish Community Relations Conference were joined by a bevy of new groups - the Council for Civic Unity (organized by a local

Democratic Party Committee), the Little Tokyo Committee, the Pasadena Roundtable, and the Mayor’s Committee on Homefront Unity, to name a few.24 Gleason visited religious and secular organizations across the country to gather ideas for programming and cooperative strategies.25 These research trips almost certainly helped to shape his proposal for the Inter-racial Committee.

The multiplication of groups on race relations — one observer counted a dozen in Los Angeles by 1946, and Gleason tallied four hundred “interracial committees” across the country26 - and other civic unity organizations complicated the work of a local Church Committee, even one supported by public funds. Its members could not claim to represent the entire metropolitan community, nor did it exercise any direct authority over the implementation of civil rights policy in government or in the private sphere. The institutional isolation of religion, in relation to other social structures at least, seemed to hamstring the body. In proposing the Interracial Committee, Gleason likely recognized the implications of bureaucratic proliferation - even as he was contributing to it — and offered up an alternative kind of organization that, while not controlled by churches, facilitated the participation of religious leaders in civic life.

If the Interracial Committee underscored the Church Committee’s fading relevance, Gleason may nonetheless have found benefits in pluralistic bodies that assured even a minor religious presence. Following the Zoot Suit Riots, the Church Committee had issued a report on the violence claiming that religious groups “should exert a steadying influence in the situation ...”27 This statement might well have applied to the philosophy behind the creation of the Interracial Committee; faith groups could ensure their participation in secular society by contributing to its organization. Paradoxically, the Interracial Committee, by making religion an object of analysis rather than an a priori basis of action, addressed the role of religion in civic life more directly than its parent had. One of its early documents included “religious facilities” in a survey of the Los Angeles racial demography. “[WJhether the present religious organizations are satisfying [the need for social facilities],” it concluded, “and whether there are adequate interracial religious observances, should be studied.”28

This statement pointed to the limits of a committee model for building a religious presence in an urban environment. Neither the Church Committee nor the Interracial Committee tried to develop interracial congregations themselves. Instead, another publically supported community group, Pilgrim House, partnered with Congregationalists and Presbyterians to create the Church of Christian Fellowship, an interracial, nondenominational church modeled after San Francisco’s celebrated Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.29 The Interracial Committee, in fact, exhibited a notable ambivalence about representation from religious groups. When, in 1946, someone proposed it create a seat for a delegate of the Protestant Mexican Convention, a discussion ensued about how to distribute the relative representation of different ethno-religious sub-groups. They never arrived at a decision. “It was generally agreed,” the Committee’s secretary recorded after the motion failed, “that representation should be by secular groups ... instead of from religious groups.”30

These changing circumstances prompted the Church Committee to reexamine its purpose, and by extension the role of religion in civic society. Through the end of the war it maintained an ambitious set of programs on topics like alcoholism, slum conditions, industrial relations, and “education for marriage and the home.’’ It even appears to have recruited Eugene Carson Blake, the pastor of First Presbyterian Church and later an internationally known ecumenist, for a brief stint on its board?1 Yet the advent of the Interracial Committee (soon renamed the Human Relations Committee) and the growing complexity of the civic landscape of Los Angeles muddled the mission of the Committee on Church and Community Cooperation. Having ceded the pressing issue of race relations to other bodies, many of which included clerical representatives, the Committee had to find a new justification for a publicly supported civic group built solely on religious affiliation.

The search for this justification sent the Committee on its first substantive exploration of the role of religion in civic society, and anticipated the larger postwar debates on the subject that took place across the country. Beginning in late 1945 it embarked on a project to revisit its charge, and subsequently convened a self-study group to accomplish the task. Demobilization had done little to calm the tensions roiling Los Angeles, and though some wartime organizations dissolved, new ones with different agendas took their place. Early in the self-study, Gleason posited that the Church Committee existed to “influence ... the policies and activities of the influential community organizations.”32 The sentiment bridged Walter Rauschenbusch’s notion of “Christianizing the social order” with the concept of “ministering to structures” that became popular among urban Protestant clergy' in the 1960s?3 But it also begged the question of how the Committee acquired its authority to act. Its liminal status, straddling the bureaucratic frameworks of church and government, was simultaneously strength and weakness, offering quasiindependence at the expense of leverage. In early 1947 a subcommittee drafted a declaration that the Committee was “primarily neither civic nor ecclesiastical, in the sense of being representative of specific interests or bodies, but acquiring authority from the validity of the Committee’s acts and attitudes.” The statement acknowledged the Committee’s ontological dilemma and offered a wishful solution. A year later, the self-study group was still meeting.34

Finally, in early 1948, Ford submitted to the Board of Supervisors a new document that spelled out the Committee’s duties without venturing into broader conceptual descriptions. He suggested that it serve as a “first point of contact” between the churches and county agencies; that it could “submit suggestions to the religious establishments regarding social, moral, and spiritual problems”; and that it could “cooperate in specific projects when not in conflict with existing agencies or institutions.”35 Even these modest objectives would have been a challenge to implement. Denominational bodies had played no role in constituting the Committee and had little reason to heed its advice. And with so many agencies and institutions operating in the Los Angeles basin, few areas remained where its activities would not overlap with others.

Gleason’s retirement in 1949 probably cemented the fate of the Church Committee. By 1951 it had fallen apart amid internal complaints of flagging energy and a preoccupation with procedure over productive work.36 None of Los Angeles’ religious communities seems to have mourned its loss. With representatives on so many other committees, boards, and agencies - including former Committee members like Magnin and O’Dwyer, who were noticeably active - they had many other options for civic participation.37 In the meantime, the Human Relations model spread throughout the country; there were 74 such committees or commissions operating by 1967.38

The history of the Church Committee illustrates a central dilemma in organized religion’s engagement with modern civic affairs. Cooperation with secular bodies promised to extend the influence of faith-based work but threatened to dissipate the resources of religious bodies in organizations they could not control. Religious engagement in the decades after 1951 reflected different understandings about the implications of this cooperation. The belief that, as Harvey Cox put it, “religion [is] just as present in the secular as in the religious realms of life” motivated a good deal of religious civic activism in Los Angeles and elsewhere during this period. Yet for many clergy and laity concerns persisted that religious bodies would dissipate precious resources in efforts controlled by and indistinguishable from secular interests.39

In large, socially fragmented cities like Los Angeles, these forces can reduce the visibility of faith groups in the civic sphere. These groups end up competing, not always successfully, with secular groups and government agencies. When clergy and laypeople collaborate with secular partners, they risk being subsumed under the name of a broader, and presumably secular, organization. This is not to say that religious activity declines perforce in urban environments. Flory, Loskota, and Miller, for instance, identify a flowering of faith-based civic activism in various arenas and circumstances, despite their reservations about its collective efficacy. And many other scholars have chronicled the persistent power of religion to shape civic landscapes locally, regionally, and nationally.40 But it does suggest that the assessment of faith-based engagement must account for the changes in those landscapes that have taken place over the last century. Doing so may require enlarging the conventional definition of faith-based engagement to account for and assess the kinds of strategies undertaken by Gleason and the Church Committee.


1 Gregory H. Singleton, Religion and the City of Angels: American Protestant Culture and Urbanization, Los Angeles, 1850-1930 (UMI 1979); Lloyd P. Vorspan and Max Gartner, History of the Jews of Los Angeles (San Marino, California: Huntington Library, 1970); Michael E. Engh, SJ., “Practically Every Faith Being Represented,” in William Deverell and Tom Sitton, eds., Metropolis in the Making: Los Angeles in the 1920s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001), 201-219.

See also, “Chest Needs Increased,” Los Angeles Times, October 25, 1936, A8.

“Morals Group Starts Work,” Los Angeles Times, October 7, 1937, A2; George Gleason to Joseph A. Hartley, July 23, 1941, in Minutes of Industrial/Racial Unity Commissions (hereafter IRC), Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations Records, Los Angeles, California (hereafter HRC).

“Morals Group Starts Work”; “Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation,” December 1940, folder “Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation, 1939,” Box 69, John Anson Ford Collection, Huntington Library, San Marino, California (hereafter JAF); “Church and Community Cooperation, Report Submitted for Church and Community Cooperation Study Group,” May 1948, folder “LACCCC-1948,” Box 69, JAF. On juvenile delinquency in Los Angeles, see Matthew Allen Ides, “Cruising for Community: Youth Culture and Politics in Los Angeles, 1910-1970,” PhD thesis, University of Michigan, 2009, 38—98.

On Ford and Gleason’s relationship, see “John Anson Ford Cites 7 Who Influenced His Life,” Los Angeles Times, July 15, 1974, A16; John Anson Ford, Thirty Explosive Years in Los Angeles County (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1961), 137—138, 143.

On the Goodwill movement and related interfaith efforts, see Benny Kraut, “A Wary Collaboration: Jews, Catholics, and the Protestant Goodwill Movement,” in William R. Hutchison, ed., Between the Times: The Travail of the Protestant Religious Establishment (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 193-230; Kevin M. Schultz, Tri-Faith America: How Catholics and Jews Held Postwar America to its Protestant Promise (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); David James Hollinger, “After Cloven Tongues of Fire: Ecumenical Protestantism and the Modern American Encounter with Diversity,” Journal of American History 98 (June 2011): 21-48.

See also, “Woman Chosen by Charities Group,” Evening Independent, October 13,

1938, 16 (, accessed July 3, 2013; “Dr. James Fifield, Influential Protestant Leader, Succumbs,” Los Angeles Times, February 26, 1977, OC3.

George Gleason, “Los Angeles County Project Sponsored by the Committee for Church and Community Cooperation,” June 1938, and George Gleason, “Report of the Special Monthly Meeting of the Exposition Coordinating Council,” February 7,

1939, and George Gleason to John Anson Ford, March 30, 1939, folder “Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation, 1939,” Box 69; “Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation, 1940,” in 1940 file; and George Gleason, “Report of Executive Secretary September 7, 1937-June 23, 1949,” folder “1948” (appendix file), Box 72, JAF.

George Gleason, “The Responsibility of the Schools for the Character of Youth,” Los Angeles County Committee on Church and Community Cooperation,” 1937, 66-7, cited in Ides, “Cruising for Community,” 6<>—€>7.

George Gleason, “The Longing to Belong,” May 1939, “1948” folder (appendix material, Box 72, JAF. On prewar anti-discrimination efforts, see Shana Beth Bernstein, Bridges of Reform: Interracial Civil Rights Activism in Twentieth Century Los Angeles (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 16-27; Douglas Flamming, Bound for Freedom: Black Los Angeles in Jim Crow America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006); Mark Wild, Street Meeting: Multiethnic Neighborhoods in Early Twentieth Century Los Angeles (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).

“Los Angeles Community Unity in the National Crisis,” brochure, J1941], IRC, HRC.

LACCCC, “Status of the Community Unity Project,” September 23, 1941; “Minutes of the Industrial Relations Section,” July 1, 1941, IRC, HRC.

LACCCC, “Status of the Community Unity Project,” Sept. 23, 1941; “Minutes of the Industrial Relations Section,” July 1, 1941, IRC, HRC.

Minutes, Industrial Unity Commission, November 18, 1941, and Fletcher Bowron to Ray L. Chesebro, November 10, 1941, and Willsie Martin to Phillip Connelly, February 3, 1942, and Galen Fischer to Rev. John Yamazaki, October 25, 1942, IRC, HRC.

Willsie Martin to Phillip Connelly, February 3, 1942, and Galen Fischer to Rev. John Yamazaki, October 25, 1942, IRC, HRC; George Gleason to Julian Lesser, February 6, 1942, Box 217, folder 8, Community Relations Commission Records Part II, Urban Archives Center, California State University’ Northridge (hereafter CRC).

LACCCC, “Statement Regarding the Enemy Alien Situation on the Pacific Coast,” March 9, 1942,” box 69, JAF; Ellen M. Eisenberg, The First to Cry Down Injustice?: Western Jews and Japanese Removal During World War II (Lexington Books, 2008), 61-62. “Pamphlet Placed Under Ban on Charge it Lauds Japs,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1942, A2; Minutes of Racial Understanding Committee, November 23, 1942, IRC, HRC.

George Gleason to Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, April 8, 1943, folder “Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation, 1943,” JAF. On the Committee’s expanding agenda, see “Chart of Authority for Activities of the Los Angeles County Committee for Church and Community Cooperation,” January 1942, folder 8, Box 27, CRC; LACCCC, minutes, April 18, 1941, Box 69, JAF.

LACCCC Minutes, November 21, 1944, folder “LACCCC-1944,” Box 69, JAF. I am at a loss to explain this refusal. Fifield was the only member to express racist inclinations, but his influence on the Committee seems marginal. The Committee might have felt that an all-White membership inoculated it against charges of radicalism, a strategy they followed in their aborted effort to create an organization to fight anti-Japanese sentiment. But their engagement with and creation of other interracial organizations belies that rationale.

Committee for American Unity announcement, June 15, 1943, IRC, HRC; “New Interracial Plan Launched By Church Group,” Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1943, A8; George Gleason, “Report of Executive Secretary, November 25, 1943—January 24, 1944,” folder “LACCCC-1944,” box 69, JAF; LACCCC, “Report of Executive Secretary, September 7, 1937—June 23, 1949,” 3, folder “LACCC—1948 appendix material,” JAF. “Los Angeles County Committee for Interracial Progress: Origins and Functions,” folder 13, Box 217, CRC; Bernstein, Bridges of Reform, 78.

“Meeting to Consider the Formation of an Interracial Committee or Interfolk Committee,” July 30, 1943; “The Proposed *Los Angeles Council for American Unity,”' August 20, 1943, HRC; “New Inter-racial Plan Launched by Church Group,” Los Angeles Times, July 31, 1943, 4; “Los Angeles County Committee for Interracial Progress: Origin and Functions,” Jan. 1945, p. 8, folder 13, Box 217, CRC. See Henry Meyers to George Gleason, January 4, 1944, HRC.

“Executive Committee Report,” June 14—September 14, 1944, LACCCC folder, Box 68; Los Angeles Committee for Interracial Progress, “Roster of Members as of July 15, 1944,” “LA County Committee for Interracial Progress” folder, Box 72, JAF; George Gleason to Members of Committee for Interracial Progress, October 1944, folder 12; and “Los Angeles County Committee for Interracial Progress: Origin and Functions,” January 1945, folder 13, Box 217, CRC.

“Inter-racial Committees and Groups Functioning in Los Angeles County,” March 1944, folder “LA County Committee for Interracial Progress,” Box 72, JAF; George Gleason, “Los Angeles County Committee on Interracial Progress: Report on Similar Committees in Los Angeles County,” April 1, 1944, HRC.

George Gleason to John Anson Ford, August 12, 1943, and “Religious and Community Centers in Bronzeville Noted by George Gleason, December 1943 and January 1944,” folder “LACCCC 1943,” Box 69, JAF. Gleason’s model for the Interracial Progress Committee was the Bay Area Council Against Discrimination.

“Suggestion to Mr. John Anson Ford, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, Los Angeles County, December 28, 1943,” folder “LA County Committee for Interracial Progress,” Box 72, ]AF. On the Bay Area Council, see Albert S. Broussard, Black San Francisco: The Struggle for Racial Equality in the ¡Vest, 1900-1954 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1993), 194.

Raymond Booth to Leon Lewis, January 4, 1946, folder 16, Box 217, CRC; [George Gleason], minutes, Los Angeles County Committee on Interracial Progress, March 21, 1945, folder 19, Box 217, CRC; George Gleason, “Inter-racial Committee and Groups Functioning in Los Angeles County,” March 1944, “LA Committee for Interracial Progress” folder, Box 72, JAF.

Executive Council of the LACCCC, “Report and Recommendations Regarding Race Tensions,” December 9, 1943, Box 69, JAF.

“Los Angeles County Committee for Interracial Progress: Origin and Functions,” January 1945, 8, folder 13, Box 217, CRC.

George Gleason, “A Proposed Church for All Peoples,” August 16, 1945, folder 15, Box 217, CRC; Gleason, “Report on Similar Committees”; Scott Kurashige, The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008), 172, 181-182. On the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples, see Quinton Dixie and Peter Eisenstadt, Visions of a Better World: Howard Thurman’s Pilgrimage to India and the Origins of African American Nonviolence (Boston: Beacon, 2011), 164—181.

LACCIP Minutes, March 6, 1946, HRC.

LACCCC, “Report of Executive Secretary, September 7, 1937-June 23, 1949,” 3, folder “LACCC—1948 appendix material”; Minutes, November 8, 1944, JAF.

George Gleason, “Four Month Report of Executive Secretary, August 16-December 15, 1945,” folder “LACCCC-1946,” Box 69, JAF.

I discuss these developments in my book, Renewal: Liberal Protestants and the American City After World War IL

LACCCC, “Statement of Organization and Function,” January 15, 1947, folder “LACCCC—1947,” Box 69, and LACCCC meeting minutes, January 15, 1948, folder “LACCCC-1948,” Box 69, JAF.

Quoted in LACCCC, “Report Submitted for Church and Community Cooperation Study Group, May 1948,” folder LACCCC-1948, Box 69, JAF.

Rev. Frederick A. Smith to John Anson Ford, October 18, 1951; Willsie Martin to John Anson Ford, November 3, 1951, folder “LACCCC-1951,” Box 69, JAF. Bernstein, Bridges of Reform, 140, 161.

Community Relations Service, US Conference of Mayors, “Official Local Community Relations Commissions with Full time Staff,” 1967, box 68, “Chicago, Leadership Council of Metro Open Communities” folder, President’s Committee on Equal Opportunity in Housing, Lyndon Johnson Presidential Library, Austin, Texas.

For a case study of the debates on this issue in the 1960s, see Daniel Callahan, ed., The Secular City Debate (New York and London: Macmillan, 1966).

See, for instance, Richard L. Wood, Faith in Action: Religion, Race, and Democratic Organizing in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Helene Slessarev-Jamir, Prophetic Activism: Progressive. Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America (New York: New York University Press, 2011).

<<   CONTENTS   >>

Related topics