From Reconciliation to Revolution

The Student Interracial Ministry, Liberal Christianity, and the Civil Rights Movement

By David P. Cline

304 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 15 halftones, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-3043-4
    Published: October 2016
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-3044-1
    Published: September 2016
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-5163-5
    Published: September 2016
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-3042-7
    Published: October 2016

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Conceived at the same conference that produced the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the Student Interracial Ministry (SIM) was a national organization devoted to dismantling Jim Crow while simultaneously advancing American Protestant mainline churches’ approach to race. In this book, David P. Cline details how, between the founding of SIM in 1960 and its dissolution at the end of the decade, the seminary students who created and ran the organization influenced hundreds of thousands of community members through its various racial reconciliation and economic justice projects. From inner-city ministry in Oakland to voter registration drives in southwestern Georgia, participants modeled peaceful interracialism nationwide. By telling the history of SIM--its theology, influences, and failures--Cline situates SIM within two larger frameworks: the long civil rights movement and the even longer tradition of liberal Christianity’s activism for social reform.

Pulling SIM from the shadow of its more famous twin, SNCC, Cline sheds light on an understudied facet of the movement’s history. In doing so, he provokes an appreciation of the struggle of churches to remain relevant in swiftly changing times and shows how seminarians responded to institutional conservatism by challenging the establishment to turn toward political activism.

About the Author

David P. Cline is assistant professor of public history at Virginia Tech.
For more information about David P. Cline, visit the Author Page.


"Cline’s study of the Student Interracial Ministry (SIM) is both a meticulous institutional history of a lesser-known civil rights organization and a timely and thoughtful examination of the church’s role in confronting injustice. Highly recommended.”--Choice

“[The Student Interracial Ministry] consistently strove to realize a new ecumenism through its networking, boundary crossing, institution building, and organization. Members believed that new thinking and acting were necessary to realizing the beloved community and racial justice. With deft organization and excellent use of scholarly literature, Cline documents these impulses and stages them elegantly in ways that parallel the broader fortunes of the American religious Left. . . . [Cline’s] estimable book brings the group’s accomplishments the attention they deserve.”--North Carolina Historical Review

“Well-researched and illuminating. . . . From Reconciliation to Revolution offers a wealth of new insights into the civil rights movement of the 1960s, and to the theological debates within seminaries and the American Christian church at large. . . revealing the American religious left, often forgotten in contemporary society, as an importance source of social change. Cline reinserts SIM workers into their rightful place in a pivotal decade in American history.”--The Sixties

“Layer[s] and reimagine[s] the civil rights movement beyond the glow of Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations like the Student Nonviolent Coordinating

Committee (SNCC). . . . Explores how white Christians, working in relationship with black Christians, tried to bring the church more in line with the vision of a desegregated order. . . . His work on SIM students helps show why spotlighting these lesser-known stories reveals a great deal about what happened on the ground.”--History of Education Quarterly

“An important addition to our understanding of the civil rights movement and the connections between it and liberal Christianity. This book also moves beyond an emphasis on the South, which characterizes many works on the civil rights movement. . . . a lively and interesting read.”--The Journal of Southern Religion

“Chronicles a little-known cohort of theological students who aimed to promote racial understanding and justice within American Protestantism.”--Journal of Southern History