Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Nancy Gabin

Committee Member 1

Kathryn Cramer Brownell

Committee Member 2

David Atkinson

Committee Member 3

John Larson


This dissertation examines the place of religion within various forms of movement activism in Chicago’s 1960s. Although scholars have documented religious participation in the period’s civil rights and peace movements, less attention has been paid to how religious leaders and institutions fit into the complicated institutional networks that drove such activism, or how religious participation was perceived by activists themselves. This is especially true of student activists whose relative lack of religious affiliation has often been interpreted as a lack of interest in religion altogether. This dissertation argues that the category of religion occupied a particular place and performed a specific function in the social, cultural, and political imaginations of many movement activists in Chicago regardless of their religious affiliations. Some student activists involved in civil rights and peace work at the University of Chicago, for instance, desired the participation of religious leaders and organizations in their movements and envisioned a distinct place for religious participation in their work. In addition to providing financial and physical resources to the movement, religion was often presumed to have an ideological content – a potential moral resonance with the aims of activists – that was deemed by some to be critical to movement work. And religious activists themselves believed that they had a unique moral contribution to make but often struggled to figure out where they and their organizations fit within the movement as a whole. By closely examining the place of religion across a variety of movement institutions and networks – including student activists at the University of Chicago, community organizations such as The Woodlawn Organization, and a number of religious organizations of various types – this dissertation considers the many ways that religion and religious participation was understood amongst Chicago’s activist networks, and how social and political engagement posed unique challenges to religious leaders and groups who sought to include civil rights, peace, and other issues in their work.