“Race Schools”

From “Fortune: How Race Broke My Family and the World–and How to Repair It All” by Lisa Sharon Harper

In the wake of the Supreme Court’s 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education and the enforced desegregation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, White southern Christians removed their children from public schools and established “race schools” – segregated private schools designed to escape federal mandates against segregation in public space. Many of those race schools transformed into Christian schools.

Established in 1927 during the fundamentalist movement, Bob Jones University in Panama City, Florida, was an elder institution among Christian schools and had banned Blacks from the beginning. When the IRS changed its regulation in accordance with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, reserving tax exemption for private schools that do not practice racial discrimination, Bob Jones did not qualify. Rather than comply with the IRS, the university fought to maintain White space, justifying its position on the belief that the BIble mandates racial segregation. Church historian Randall Balmer notes that conservative movement organizer Paul Weyrich and Jerry Falwell, the fundamentalist firebrand founder of segregation academy Liberty University, advised Bob Jones not to fight for the right to segregate based on race. It was no longer socially acceptable. Rather, they counseled to fight on the basis of religious freedom. Thus, Falwell and Weyrich launched the Moral Majority in 1979, and the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom became the segregationist movement’s best hope to push back the gains of the civil rights movement.