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The ESCRU Archive

The ESCRU Archive at The Archives of the Episcopal Church

The Montgomery Bus Boycott, the March on Washington, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech are celebrated episodes from the Civil Rights era in American history. Less well known, however, is The Episcopal Church's participation in the events of this period.

Individual Episcopalians, from lay persons to seminary students to the Presiding Bishop, were moved to challenge the Church's conscience on the inequality they witnessed in American society. The courage of individual witness ultimately effected a change in national Church policy.

Leadership in this awakening was centered in an organization of ordained and lay Episcopalians who committed themselves to removing all vestiges of segregation from the life of the Church. The Episcopal Society for Cultural and Racial Unity (ESCRU) adopted many of the tactics used by other civil rights protesters, such as peaceful protest and civil disobedience, to publicize long-standing problems of segregation and racial division in the Church. ESCRU was a prophetic demonstration of how committed Episcopalians, black and white, from all walks of life, challenged segregation and racism during the Civil Rights decades.

The Archives of the Episcopal Church acquired the records of ESCRU along with the personal papers of its founder, the Reverend John Morris in 1998. The collection had been on deposit at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in Atlanta before it was transferred to the Archives by Father Morris. It is open for research. This exhibit draws from the rich resources in these collections along with others in the Archives that document the African-American experience in the Church.

The ESCRU Collection comprises 34 linear feet of administrative files, correspondence, chapter records, financial papers, project files, convention records, photographs, artifacts, and tape recordings, spanning the years 1959 to 1970. Much of the collection consists of ESCRU’s national office files, where most of the organization’s mailing, project proposals, and reports were generated. Of particular note are the project files which document the civil rights related activities of ESCRU, such as the Prayer Pilgrimage, the Lovett School Integration controversy, and the work and murder of seminarian Jonathan Daniels.