Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Some Belated Birthdays

26 July 1856 was the birthday of the great Baptist educator, William Rainey Harper (1856-1906), who revamped Yale’s Semitics Department while still in his 20s and then was founding president of the University of Chicago.  Harper was an innovator in educational theory, promoting an undergraduate curriculum based on “The Great Books of the Western World,” with numerous graduate research facilities, but also promoting the “junior college” trend in U.S. education.

28 July 1924 Cordy Tindall (C. T.) Vivian was born.  An amazing giant in the struggle for civil and human rights, C. T. is also one who launched the “Churches Supporting Churches” movement to help struggling New Orleans pastors and churches become the anchors for rebuilding the city–especially its poorer neighborhoods.

29 July 1912 Clarence Jordan, Baptist prophet and saint in blue jeans, was born.  I put this up before going to peace camp, but it was easy to lose this in the shuffle.

01 August 1895 was the birthday of Benjamin Elijah Mays (1895-1984), the great African-American Baptist educator and theologian. (HT: Travis Norvell for catching this. I can’t believe I missed it.) Mays  began his postsecondary education at Virginia Union University before finishing his B.A. at Bates College in 1920. Refused admission to Andover-Newton Theological Institute because of race (which left an emotional scar that never healed according to his autobiography), Mays decided not to go to seminary anywhere. Instead, he entered the University of Chicago (which still had strong Baptist ties in those days), earned an M.A. in sociology in 1925 and a Ph.D. in Sociology of Religion in 1935. His education at Chicago was repeatedly interrupted because of his work as a Baptist minister.  From 1934-1940, Mays was dean of the School of Religion (now School of Theology) at Howard University in Washington, D.C.  He traveled to India and met at length with Mohandas K. Gandhi. Mays became one of several major African-American figures who spread Gandhi’s teachings about nonviolent direct action throughout African-American circles in the U.S.—preparing the way for the Civil Rights movement’s success.  From 1940 to 1967, Mays was president and professor at Morehouse College, where he became mentor to a young Martin Luther King, Jr.


August 1, 2007 - Posted by | Baptists


  1. Thanks for making note of Dr. Vivian’s birthday.

    Comment by Mike Broadway | August 1, 2007

  2. August 1 was also the birthday of Benjamin Mays.

    Comment by travis norvell | August 2, 2007

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