In 1967, following the racial violence in Newark and Detroit, the Unitarian Universalist Commission on Religion and Race convened an emergency conference on "the Unitarian Universalist Response to the Black Rebellion."
The Black Affairs Council
At the conference, the Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus (BUUC) was formed, in order for Black participants in the conference to set their own priorities and goals. In turn, the BUUC led to the formation of the Black Affairs Council (BAC), a committee which served as a coordinating agency for Unitarian Universalist efforts in the fields of race relations and Black empowerment.
In 1968, a white support group formed to support the BAC, and it was known as the Full Recognition and Funding of the Black Affairs Council (FULLBAC).
Some Unitarian Universalists felt that the direction of the Black Affairs Council was too separatist, and a group called Black and White Action (BAWA) was formed in 1968 to provide a channel for the efforts of some Unitarian Universalists to achieve racial justice through more integrated means.
UUA administration mismanaged BAC funding, and in 1970 BAC disaffiliated from the UUA. Three years later, BAC and BUUC split and two organizations claiming to be BAC emerged, leading to a lawsuit. As UUA membership declined in general during this period, so did Black membership. BAC was officially disbanded in 1979.
Records related to the Empowerment Controversy in the UUA in the late 1960s and 1970s have been digitized, including:
- Unitarian Universalist Black Empowerment Controversy records (1965-1983), collected by David Bortin, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Commission on Appraisal, who contributed a chapter to the 1984 report on the controversy entitled Empowerment. Many of the records in this collection were used in the composition of this chapter.
- Black Affairs Council records (1958-1983), including those related to the legal case “The Black Unitarian Universalist Caucus, Inc. et al v. Richard L. Traylor, et al.”
- Full Recognition and Funding of the Black Affairs Council Records (1966-1983). Many of the records in this collection belonged to Reverend David B. Parke, one of the two original chairmen of the organization.
- Unitarian Universalist Association Commission on Religion and Race records (1967-1969), including the organization of the Emergency Conference, and responses to it after it ended, financial records, FULLBAC material, sermons, and papers dealing with the formation of the BAC. Includes the records of Homer Jack, director of the Department of Social Responsibility for the UUA in the late 1960s.
- Unitarian Universalist Association Committee on Racial Justice records (1961-1979). Digitization of this collection is in process.
Additional collections of interest include:
- Papers of Unitarian Universalist minister Victor H. Carpenter (1917-2004), including sermons, ministerial records, awards and gifts, as well as material related to his book, Long Challenge: The Empowerment Controversy (1967-1977).
- A film by Ron Cordes, "Wilderness Journey, The Struggle for Black Empowerment and Racial Justice within the Unitarian Universalist Association, 1967-1970"
Accessing These Materials
Harvard Divinity School Library special collections are available to students, faculty, visiting scholars, and other researchers with interest. Use HOLLIS Special Request to request reproductions or view materials in our secure reading room.