Race Relations Department of the United Church Board for Homeland Ministries records, 1943-1970 | Amistad Research Center
The Race Relations Department was established in 1942 to define problem areas related to race relations in the United States, to develop programs and techniques designed to promote constructive action, and to work toward relieving areas of tension utilizing, wherever possible, local resources. Population movements during World War II had created pressure points in several cities. Race riots occurred with alarming frequency and the newly organized department attempted to alleviate or prevent the problem by dispatching field workers to the affected areas to collect data and to survey still other areas threatened with racial disturbances.
An imposing group of social scientists was involved in the work of the department from the outset. Its first director was the eminent sociologist, Charles S. Johnson (1942-1950), who was succeeded by Herman Hodge Long (1950-1964). Long eventually became president of Talladega College in Alabama and Clifton Herman Johnson (1966-1970) became the last director of the department. Throughout the years of its existence, the department could boast of such staff members as Ira De A. Reid, Carroll Barber, Horace Mann Bond, Margaret McCulloch, Grace Jones, Lewis Wade Jones, Bonita and Preston Valien, Vivian Henderson, John Hope, II, and Hattie McDaniel Perry. Numerous others could be added to the stellar roster of the specialists who participated in the work of the department.
The records consist of correspondence, speeches, publicity, programs, announcements, clippings, bibliographies, financial records, photographs, posters, and survey forms. There are department records and a small segment of personal papers for Herman H. Long and Lewis W. Jones. The collection is arranged chronologically, in general, within series which include an administrative series and additional series generated by the department's activities. Institutes, surveys, and studies comprised the major activities. Incoming and outgoing correspondence are interfiled.
The importance of the collection to the students of race relations is inestimable. The department played a key role in the removal of the issue of racial segregation and discrimination from the realm of social abstraction. It provided a basis for action in the foundation built upon research. The papers document the fact that the department pioneered in studies in race relations and significantly influenced intergroup relations in much of the United States. The Race Relations Institutes conducted by the department have been credited with exerting a greater effect upon the course of race relations in this country than any other single series of events. Certainly, no study of the issue in this century would be complete without recourse to the rich resources available in the records of the department.