Off the Cuff: Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery
The Reverend Dr. Joseph E. Lowery has been at the fore of every major civil rights event or activist epoch since the 1950s. In 1955, he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Coalition alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and served as its president from 1977-98. He has worked to expand voting rights, increase minority employment and contracts and has led peace delegations to the Middle East. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People gave him its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997, hailing him as “the dean of civil rights.” Ebony Magazine has twice listed him among the “15 Greatest Black Preachers.” Oberlin will be treated to his famous powers of speech at 2 p.m. on May 28 when he delivers the school’s 173rd Baccalaureate address.
In recent years, Christianity has become, unfortunately, politically
associated with the religous right wing. How can spiritual revival lend itself
to more progressive social activism?
The religious right has been more aggressive in defining religion while the progressives have been tentative, indecisive and sometimes confused. The children of darkness are more vociferous, better organized, better capitalized and absolutely better televised...Their claims have been simplistic and cater to the prejudices and convenience of the gullible and undiscerning.
How is the interaction between religion and politics facilitated in
general? It’s hard for some people to see why religion and politics would
go together. Why and how do you see the two forces as working
What do you think is necessary to a baccaluareate address that
distinguishes it from other kind of speeches? What should its objective be?
Can you tell us the origins of the SCLC? What were its goals, and how did
it go about achieving them?
How do you see it continuing its mission in contemporary society? What
should its next move be?
Religion has played such a major role in both your personal and
professional life. This is a little personal, so feel free to decline an answer,
but what events, recent or historical, have acted as either a challenge or a
strengthener to your faith?
How do you see Oberlin College as fitting into to a mission of mixing
spirituality with activism?