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Adventists, Fundamentalism, and the Second Wave of the Ku Klux Klan


Editor’s note: This article originally appeared in Volume 50, Issue 1 of Spectrum. You can subscribe to support Adventist scholarship and independent journalism.

During the 1967–1968 school year, Billy Wright, a young Black man, decided to attend Southwestern Junior College in Keene, Texas.1 His family had recently converted to Seventh-day Adventism and Wright had felt a distinct call to ministry. He chose this historically white Adventist school because he wanted to be closer to home. In spite of a series of roadblocks, he was able to tenaciously hold on and academically outperform his white peers. An intrepid individual, Wright persevered despite counsel from the religion department, which discouraged him from pursuing a theology degree. When these tactics to discourage him did not work, a mob at the furniture manufacturing plant tried to prevent him from earning money to pay his bill. When even this, too, failed to discourage Wright, the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, held a cross burning outside his dormitory window. Subsequently, someone attempted, unsuccessfully, to set pipe bombs in the dormitory. Wright believed that it was God’s providence that he survived as one of four African American students to integrate this historically white Adventist school.2

Wright’s courage and tenacity were certainly not unique in the wake of the Civil Rights era. Students at other Christian colleges and universities also challenged administrations determined to preserve white supremacy.3 Most white southern evangelicals defended segregation as hermeneutically correct and biblically sound.4 Once the IRS in the 1970s revoked Bob Jones University’s tax-exempt status because it failed to integrate, political operatives including Jerry Falwell (1933–2007), James Robison (b. 1943), and Tim LaHaye (1926–2016) morphed the issues from race by shifting to abortion in the formation of the Christian Coalition.5 What is not as well known, but should probably not be surprising, is that the majority of Adventist colleges and universities in North America similarly resisted integration. Interviews suggest that there were active Klan chapters and cross burnings on other Adventist college campuses. The lack of faculty diversity, segregated cafeterias, and the proscription against interracial dating were further indications of segregation. At the same time, denominational leaders at the General Conference held on as long as they possibly could to a racially segregated cafeteria, and discouraged Adventist clergy from participating in Civil Rights marches.7 This did not stop some from participating, as has been documented by several denominational historians.7 This legacy would loom large, and some Adventist congregations in the American South continued to provide monthly payments to local Klan chapters into the 1980s.8

This Klan manual provides important details about what the Klan stands for, including the ABCs of Klan membership: America First, Benevolence, and Clanishness. Courtesy of the Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

Seventh-day Adventism, as a movement on the margins of American society, came a long way from its abolitionist beginnings. The earliest Sabbatarian Adventists (those who formed the core of the denomination that officially organized in 1863) were born and bred on anti-slavery rhetoric. Both James White and Ellen White denounced slavery in the strongest possible terms, with Ellen White writing to believers, for example, to break the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. The first General Conference president, John Byington (elected in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War) was well-known for his abolitionism, and historian Brian Strayer has gone to great lengths to uncover his participation on the Underground Railroad.9 On the eve of the Civil War, James boldly proclaimed that “to a man” they voted for Abraham Lincoln and remained united in their opposition to slavery and that to retain slaves was cause for disfellowship.10 One can understand why, even during the heyday of the Millerite revival of the 1840s, the news about Christ’s Second Advent freeing the slaves was not well received in the American South.11

 Adventist historiography has in recent years contextualized some of this radical resistance in light of the wider social and political milieu. Kevin Burton, in his doctoral work, for example, has shown that early Millerite and Sabbatarian Adventist leaders were quite radical. Even during the Millerite revival of the 1840s there were a number of Black preachers who boldly proclaimed Christ’s imminent return. A Free Will Baptist preacher, William Foy’s visionary ministry was witnessed and appreciated by then Ellen Harmon (later White). Ellen, for her part, expressed significant appreciation for Foy’s ministry. Each on different occasions escaped mob violence as Advent visionaries. Other Black Millerites, such as Eri L. Barr, traveled with white ministers—a fact only relatively recently noticed.12 Contemporary Millerites seemed not to be concerned that a Black and a white minister held evangelistic meetings together, and no one within Adventism discussed the color of their skin. Even the first issues of The Present Truth (first published in 1849), the founding periodical of Sabbatarian Adventism, were printed on an abolitionist press.

A century later, Seventh-day Adventism, a movement cradled in abolitionism, would become recalcitrant toward the Civil Rights Movement. So, how did a movement founded by ardent abolitionist leaders so transform in a century to the point where some leaders, at least, were actively involved in the Ku Klux Klan and inciting racial violence?

While this reversal in race relations has been ably documented by a number of Adventist historians, most notably Calvin B. Rock in Protest and Progress (Andrews University Press, 2018), this article seeks to problematize this narrative by looking at a rather overlooked chapter of Seventh-day Adventist history from 1915 to 1925, during the heyday of what I describe as Adventist Fundamentalism. Such broad cultural shifts were not unique to Adventism. Mark A. Noll would furthermore describe this as a time when “In the lower Midwest and upper South, this same hereditary religion supported the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan and its desire to keep American power in white Protestant hands.”13 In this way, the rise of the second wave of the Klan coincided with increased racial tensions. “Racial attitudes gathered strength in the churches through the 1920s,” writes Philip Jenkins.14 In this way, the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan, during the late 1910s and early 1920s, showcases this same kind of tipping point in Adventist race relations. Just as some Fundamentalists (ostensibly the outspoken J. Frank Norris would become a particularly outspoken supporter of the Klan), in a similar way, some Adventists would become swept up in this movement of Christian nationalism.

Adventist Fundamentalism

The historical Fundamentalist movement has been variously defined and contested. For the purposes of this article, I’ve utilized George Marsden’s definition of it being militantly anti-modernism. Or, as he has quipped, an “evangelical who is mad about something.” Other historians have variously built on, and critiqued, this definition, noting that it is as much a broad attitude or outlook, as anything else. More recent scholarship by Matthew Avery Sutton has revived Ernest R. Sandeen’s thesis about premillennial apocalypticism as the driving force behind Fundamentalism. And of course, several individuals, including Nancy Murphey and B. M. Pietsch have noted the irony that these historical Fundamentalists were using the same modernist epistemological foundations to reconcile themselves to the world around them that was indeed changing. For the sake of this article, I argue that Seventh-day Adventists were very much a part of these very lively debates as they happened and, for better or worse, saw themselves as Fundamentalists in this warfare against theological modernism.

A central motif linking Adventism and Fundamentalism would in fact be eschatological. During World War I, Adventist denominational leaders attended all the prophetic conferences held by those who would later become known as the Fundamentalists and reported about them as some of the most significant events in Christian history—ranked in importance with Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses. Their reports in the Review and Herald are tinged with a bit of jealousy as they wondered why these conservative Christians were doing so well at attracting the attention of “the world” to Christ’s imminent return. Yet this was a one-sided love affair. As I have documented elsewhere, the editors of The Fundamentals: A Testimony for the Truth (1910–15) had debated among themselves about whether to include Seventh-day Adventists with Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses in their tract against cults. In the end, they opted to not mention them at all (largely due to the intervention of Lyman and Milton Stewart, the brothers who financed the project). Despite such reservations on the part of these Fundamentalists, A. G. Daniells, organizer of the Adventist 1919 Bible Conference (modeled after these prophetic conferences), would state that Adventists are the “Fundamentalists of the Fundamentalists.” Adventists began to adopt these ideas from the Fundamentalists into their own unique variety of Adventist Fundamentalism.

Adventists who sought social respectability on the margins of American religion turned to another pan-denominational group, the Fundamentalists, who were themselves losing space in the American religious marketplace. Their increasingly shrill denunciations of modernism, along with internecine warfare in various denominations, would not split the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the same way that other denominations split apart. A decade earlier, those with a more independent (and at times liberal) theological bent, such as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg among others, found themselves pushed outside the denomination. Adventists were spared a church split because Adventist thought leaders, especially as evidenced after Ellen White’s death in 1915, up through the 1919 Bible Conference and beyond into the 1920s, saw themselves as Fundamentalist. A helpful interpretative lens for understanding Adventist Fundamentalism is perhaps that of a continuum between those who saw themselves as more open to change, versus those traditionalists who embraced a much more conservative mindset that included a push toward inerrancy.15 This continuum is helpful for understanding Adventism because Adventist Fundamentalism was far from monolithic. Adventism paralleled the wider Fundamentalist movement by having a common enemy, theological modernism; much of the internal strife centers upon the nature, inspiration, and authority of Ellen G. White’s writings. Now that she was no longer alive, Adventist hermeneutical debates centered upon the interpretation of her writings.

Photograph courtesy of the author featuring a 1920s Klan robe on exhibit at the collection of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum

Adventism embraced a militant Fundamentalism from World War I up through the 1920s. This linkage in reaction to modernism profoundly impacted Seventh-day Adventism in terms of its attitude to both race and gender. In 1910 there were close to 1,000 female church workers, including some pastors, but by 1930 there were only a handful left.16 During this period Adventists also began to selectively use a few quotations by Ellen White at the end of her life, dealing with racial strife in the American South and the need to not inflame the situation by allowing temporarily for segregation, as becoming normative for Adventist race relations in the twentieth century. Some of the most militant and conservative Adventist Fundamentalists began to articulate a new theology of segregation. Most notably, J. S. Washburn, who was a white evangelist in Washington, DC, was pitted against the much more popular Black preacher, Lewis C. Sheafe. Church president, A. G. Daniells led the way by using these two pastors as role models for twentieth-century Adventism. Daniells’s policies resulted in the breakup of a racially integrated church in Washington, DC, which created new racial tensions. The General Conference poured money into Washburn’s evangelism and church, giving only a pittance to the work of Sheafe and his congregation. Ultimately Sheafe would leave Adventism, and the pain caused paved the way for later regional conferences that began within Seventh-day Adventism in the 1940s.17 Washburn, who saw himself as a hardline conservative and guardian of Ellen White’s inerrant writings, produced some of the most racist and vitriolic rhetoric in Adventist history. In the midst of this debate, Arthur W. Spalding wrote his manuscript, Lights and Shades in the Black Belt, describing in detail the benefits of segregation. This recasting of Ellen White can be seen in the portrayal of Jesus by Ellen White. As Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey argue in The Color of Christ (2012), Ellen White was a holdout in the nineteenth century in describing Jesus as “light,” not white.18 But, by the early twentieth century, new traditions emerged claiming that Ellen White regarded a painting of a white Jesus as the most exact likeness to the image of Jesus she had seen in vision.19 This recasting of Jesus as white, through Ellen White, is indicative of this same kind of transformation in terms of race and gender that occurred during the decade after her death.

This article furthermore argues that it was a militant and selective reading of Ellen White, reinforced by an inerrantist view of her authority, that made it possible for her writings to be used effectively to suppress Blacks and women, especially during the 1920s, the heyday of Adventist Fundamentalism. This can be seen in clearer relief by Adventist interactions with the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan, with special focus on 1920–25.

Seventh-day Adventist Interactions with the Klan

Seventh-day Adventist interactions with the second wave of the Ku Klux Klan were mixed. While there is extensive documentation of both abolitionist activity in early Adventism, and strong reactions against integration during the Civil Rights Movement, there was a far more fluid time in racial views in between. Interactions between Seventh-day Adventists and the Klan varied— from church leaders speaking at Klan rallies to open suspicion of a secret society with violent tendencies. While it is difficult to trace with any certainty how many Adventists were part of the Klan (due to limited extant records), both Adventist and Klan sources offer numerous examples that Adventist church members did participate in Klan activities. For example, at a Klan meeting in North Dakota featuring the Grand Cyclops of the Grand Forks Klan, Rev. F. Halsey Ambrose, the presence of a number of denominations was noted, including Seventh-day Adventists.20 Another interesting example of participation involved a Seventh-day Adventist church member in Oklahoma whose funeral was attended by twelve Klansmen, “clad in the regalia of their order,” after which they passed in single file, each leaving “a green fern leaf on the coffin” and the leader placing a “cross of red roses at the head of the grave.”21

A few pre-1915 references to the Klan give some indication about initial predilections toward the Klan and secret societies. The earliest reference to the Ku Klux Klan actually comes from 1904, when there is an opaque reference to the Ku Klux Klan (referencing the first iteration during the Civil War) as among those “secret societies” that Adventists should avoid.22 Similarly, an Adventist periodical devoted to educating Adventist young people, The Youth’s Instructor, provided a review in 1909 of lessons learned from the American Civil War. This included avoiding the “lawless methods of the Ku-Klux-Klan [sic], a secret, oath-bound order, [that] terrorized the superstitious negro, spreading such anarchy and violence in various sections that the better classes of the Southern people themselves united to re-establish order.”23 At least up until World War I, Adventists were consistent that during the original iteration of the Reconstruction period, the Klan was to be avoided due to its association with being secretive or potentially violent.

After 1918, through the early 1920s, there is a decided shift in rhetoric in how Adventists viewed the second wave of the Klan in America. While Adventists continued to maintain that secret societies should be avoided, or to be leery about money-making schemes, the Adventist rhetoric does not mention the Klan’s association with the Civil War or suppression of the rights of formerly enslaved people.24 At this point, the Klan is featured as a positive group rather than reprehensible, attesting to a broad rehabilitation of the second wave of the Klan following D. W. Griffith’s 1915 film The Birth of a Nation.

The most striking feature of the shift is that Adventists appreciated the Klan’s anti-Roman Catholic rhetoric. Alonzo Baker, associate editor of Signs of the Times, noted that “anti-Romanism” is one of the “biggest planks” in their “platform.”25 Adventists were enchanted with the anti-Catholic composition of the organization,26 and, ironically, at least one Adventist minister gave a presentation at a Klan meeting to promote Liberty Magazine, the signature Adventist publication promoting religious liberty.27 The first published reference to the Klan in the denomination’s flagship periodical, the Review and Herald, is in an article about “Practising [sic] What We Preach.” The article featured recent news coverage from the Catholic weekly, America, responding to anti-Catholic rhetoric made by William Joseph Simmons, alleging that the Catholic Church “owes an allegiance that is foreign to the government of the United States.” He added: “These also I am earnestly striving for.”28 Similarly, another article provided news coverage on the Council of Catholic Men that fought against the Klan and sought to limit the distribution of Protestant literature in the Philippines.29 Clearly Adventists and the Klan had a common enemy in Catholicism—which Adventists identified as the mark of the beast that would bring about the final eschaton. This would be characterized by a distinctive threefold union between modern spiritualism, apostate Protestantism, and Roman Catholicism— an eschatological framework that would be unique to Seventh-day Adventists. The Klan warning about any potential “union” between Protestantism and Catholicism “is right in line of fulfilling prophecy as every Seventh-day Adventist well knows.”30 More than anything else, Adventists during the 1920s noted with appreciation how the Klan stood against the infiltration of Roman Catholicism within American culture and society. This nativism, coupled with Adventist eschatology, turned out to be an irresistible combination for Adventists who wanted to believe so badly that they were willing to support a group that, prior to this, they would never have countenanced.

In another clear sign that Adventist rhetoric had changed about the Klan, an Adventist minister, W. E. Barr, described how twenty-five Klansmen had showed up at an Adventist evangelistic meeting in Oklahoma. The Klan donated $25 to the Adventists to help with their evangelistic meetings and invited members to join their Klan chapter. Barr added a public note of appreciation for the work of the Klan, especially their efforts to uphold the American constitution and to promote a “clean community.”31 It is not known whether any Adventists joined, but if Barr’s evangelistic efforts are any indication, his positive rapport with the Klan certainly did not hurt. When he was done, he raised up a congregation of over 100 members and built the Ardmore Seventh-day Adventist Church.32 Barr’s evangelistic techniques, and these meetings, would be upheld as a model for aspiring young pastors. Some Adventist evangelists treated the Klan as a potentially valuable ally, particularly when discussing the Roman Catholic Church as the mark of the beast.

Perhaps the most startling example is C. S. Longacre, the head of the religious liberty department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and one of the most prominent leaders in the denomination at the time, who spoke for a robed Klan convention in Charleston, West Virginia. He recounted that he was blindfolded at the train station and taken “to an audience robed in ghostly white and hooded so you could see nothing except two sparkling eyes through two small holes.” He expressed his apprehension at first but shared that his audience was “composed of the leading business men [sic] of that city who, it is said, stand for true American principles.” The next day, he met some of these people in broad daylight, who shared with him how much they appreciated his talk.33 The most extensive description by an Adventist of the work of the Ku Klux Klan is a manuscript by A. W. Spalding, who would become prominent in the 1930s and 1940s as an Adventist historian, in the work already mentioned, Lights and Shades. 34 While noting the excesses at times of the Klan, Spalding argues that things could have been much worse. Thus “God was overruling,” noting some positive aspects of the Klan to maintain racial segregation. Spalding added that due to sin, racial segregation was necessary, and that mixed marriages caused confusion and a weakening of the races. J. S. Washburn, who has also already been mentioned, affirmed that ultimately heaven itself would be segregated. The 1920s also became notable for a resurgence of interest in the “amalgamation” statements by Ellen White, with decidedly racist interpretations. For both Spalding and Washburn, racial ideology and literalistic readings of Ellen White would complement one another and reify their racist theology.

One final point of alignment was that Adventists noted with glowing admiration support by the Klan for private parochial school systems.35 This at times could be mixed, as when the Klan fought against Roman Catholics having their own schools. While Adventists had a common enemy, and therefore at least some Adventists saw themselves in alignment with the Klan (and some actively participated), obviously this did not represent all Adventists at this time. Yet it does show that clearly times had changed and that, at least within a new era of Adventist Fundamentalism, such efforts reflected new mores and values about race, gender, immigration, and even lingering biases against Roman Catholicism.

Critiquing the Klan

Other than initial concerns about the Klan being secretive or potentially violent, after 1920 the primary critique of the Klan came from Seventh-day Adventists beyond North America. During the mid-1920s, Adventist membership outside of North America eclipsed that of the membership in the home base of America. This shift reflected the fact that Adventism was beginning to become a global movement. Adventists were driven by a sense of mission to warn the world about Christ’s impending return, and interestingly, it was Adventists living overseas who saw most clearly the dangers of the Ku Klux Klan, especially the implications for race relations, as illustrated by the next two examples.

The most outspoken opposition to the Klan in print by an Adventist appears in a Canadian Adventist periodical, The Canadian Watchman. The article, written presumably by editor C. F. McVagh, warned that a revival of the Ku Klux Klan on any “extended scale” was not just a “negro problem” but a problem for all “races and religions.” He believed that Americans were vulnerable to this due to patriotic vigilance efforts creating a “bad” situation. He worried lest this “disease . . . jump national boundaries” so that what “they have in the United States today, we may have in Canada tomorrow.” He compared the “masked terrorism and mob law” of the Klan to “a fearful reminder of the satanic methods of the Dark Ages.” A “revival of the Ku-Klux Klan ought to make us think seriously” about what we believe. He attributed Griffith’s movie The Birth of a Nation as largely responsible for “popular sentiment.”36

Another outspoken group of Adventist critics came from Australia and New Zealand. C. M. Snow, editor of the Australian Signs of the Times, for example, expressed concern about “hearing much concerning the work of the Ku Klux Klan in the United States and Canada.” The Klan, he protested, “set itself with fierce determination to rob of their rights the Jews, the Roman Catholics, and the negroes, the first two on account of their religion, and the last on account of their racial characteristics.”37

This photograph, originally published in Signs of the Times, features the racial turmoil in America during the 1920s

Both Canadian and Australian Adventists saw what apparently few American Adventists recognized at the time—the implications of the second wave of the Klan for Adventist race relations. As Philip Jenkins has observed, the rise of the second wave of the Klan coincided with increased racial tensions. “Racial attitudes gathered strength in the churches through the 1920s.”38

One other dimension of the intersection between Adventism and the Klan is that regional aspects most certainly played a part in Adventist participation in the Klan. As several historians have noted, the Klan faded in influence within American society in the latter 1920s, especially in late 1925 and 1926. Similarly, in the latter part of the 1920s, at least in Adventist print, references to the Klan similarly disappear. In 1925, as the Klan was waning, a group of Adventist clergy in California coalesced to publicly condemn the Klan.39 This suggests that not only were Adventists outside of the United States concerned about race relations, but that there were regional variations within Adventism as well. The Klan would live on in some circles of Seventh-day Adventism, and reappear during the third wave of the Klan during the Civil Rights Era as mentioned at the outset of this article. Yet the challenges created by Adventist Fundamentalism, particularly for race relations, would leave scars and challenge Adventism for much of the twentieth century (a topic beyond the scope of this article).


Several recent scholars have pointed out the theological underpinnings behind the Klan.40 Despite this, a lacuna exists both within Adventist and Klan scholarship about interactions between these two groups. Such religious underpinnings are thereby illuminating, making this a helpful case study about a religious group on the margins of American religion, as a new religious movement, as it sought to widen its own influence through the wave of populism and nationalism. In the bid from sect to denomination, during its formative years the denomination had created a liminal space in which women and Blacks could actively participate and even provide leadership. Yet, in the early twentieth century, with the rise of Adventist Fundamentalism, this space eroded away

Recruitment poster for the Ku Klux Klan. Courtesy of The Texas Collection, Baylor University

Rawlings, in his Second Coming of the Invisible Empire, notes how the second wave of the Klan was really “one of the most successful marketing efforts in American history.”41 Klan recruiters, known as Kleagles, as they transformed the movement from nearly 100,000 members at the close of the war to some 5 million members by 1925, drew upon and attracted some Adventists. The combination of Christianity, patriotism, white supremacy, rule of law, and anti-Catholicism was an irresistible mix. And while not all Christians, Fundamentalists, or Adventists supported the Klan, it was supported by some. Perhaps more important is to notice these shared common concerns that created crossings, in ways that perhaps should not be surprising. What appears to have especially attracted those Adventists who did interact with the Klan centered on their anti-Catholic, pro-private education, and pro-religious liberty (albeit only for Protestants) stances. Some Adventists found themselves predisposed to like and constructively engage with the Klan, even sharing some of their racial biases about segregation, which would be amplified in new directions through a proof-text and reinterpretation of Ellen White’s writings that emphasized a new “white” Jesus and a segregated heaven. Some Adventist evangelists found themselves protected by the Klan and at least one General Conference leader was featured at a Klan rally. This would have been unimaginable to the founders a generation earlier, during the first wave of the Klan. Yet times had changed. And now the Klan was fulfilling Bible prophecy by warning about changes they believed were bringing about the eschaton.

As pointed out by several other recent scholars, there are some important regional variations to Adventism that are important to note, and where points of resistance arose. While southern, midwestern, and eastern American Adventists appear to be where all of the examples of Klan interaction happen, it would be Adventists in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and California who would express significant concerns, warning adherents about the racial and xenophobic implications of the Klan.

Yet, as American Adventism embraced its own unique variety of Fundamentalism, Adventism itself had profoundly changed. And whereas the reasons for this are no doubt complex, at the very least, Adventist Fundamentalism would be a significant conduit in helping to attract some Adventists to the second wave of the Klan.


Notes & References:

1. An earlier version of this article was presented to the American Society of Church History, January 9, 2022. I’m grateful to a variety of scholars who have provided input and enriched this article. I’m especially indebted to several Adventist scholars, Gilbert M. Valentine, Jonathan Butler, Ron Graybill, and Lawrence Geraty, for their input as part of their reading group. Special thanks to Matthew J. Lucio of the Adventist History Podcast for constructive feedback. Additional thanks to Benjamin Baker and Kevin M. Burton for assistance in locating sources. I’m also grateful to the staff of the archives at the Baylor University Texas History Collection and the special collections at Austin for assistance in locating Ku Klux Klan materials in their collections. Special thanks to the Southwestern Adventist University Sicher Faculty Development Grant that made travel to these archives possible.

2. Based upon an interview by Buster Swoopes, Jr., with Billy Wright, Southwestern Adventist University Martin Luther King, Jr., Day Assembly, Jan. 20, 2020.

3. Cf. J. Russell Hawkins, The Bible Told Them So: How Southern Evangelicals Fought to Preserve White Supremacy (New York: Oxford University Press, 2021).

4. Hawkins, The Bible Told Them So, 5.

5. For a helpful overview showing this development, see Randall Balmer, Bad Faith: Race and the Rise of the Religious Right (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2021).

6. F. D. Nichol, “Unity in the Faith,” Review and Herald, April 29, 1965: 12. Nichols cites a “distinctively Adventist approach” about freedom marches, explaining that Adventists should avoid them; Calvin Rock, email to author, January 22, 2022.

7. Samuel G. London, Jr., Seventh-day Adventists and the Civil Rights Movement (Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2010); Calvin Rock, Protest and Progress: Black Seventh-day Adventist Leadership and the Push for Parity (Berrien Springs, MI: Andrews University Press, 2018).

8. An email from a North American Division leader on condition of anonymity documents the struggle well into the 1980s of some Adventist congregations in the American south that continued to provide financial support to the Ku Klux Klan. Email in possession of author.

9. Brian E. Strayer, First General Conference President, Circuit-Riding Preacher, and Radical Reformer (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2018).

10. James White, “The Nation,” Review and Herald, August 12, 1862: 84, https://

11. Robert W. Olson, “Southern Baptists’ Reactions to Millerism,” (PhD thesis, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1972).

12. Stanley D. Hickerson, “Was Eri L. Barr the First Black Adventist Minister?” Adventist Review, April 7, 2015,; see also, Benjamin Baker, Encyclopedia of Seventh-day Adventism, s.v. “Barr, Eri L.,” [accessed 1/23/22].

13. Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2019), 365.

14. Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 211.

15. I’ve borrowed this idea from Geoffrey R. Treloar, The Disruption of Evangelicalism: The Age of Torrey, Mott, McPherson and Hammond, A History of Evangelicalism, vol. 4 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2017). For a detailed review, see my review in Andrews University Seminary Studies 56, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 218–220.

16. Bertha Dasher, “Leadership Positions: A Declining Opportunity?,” Spectrum 15, no. 4 (December 1984): 35–37; Patrick Allen, “The Depression and the Role of Women in the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Adventist Heritage 11, no. 2 (Fall 1986): 48–54; Bertha Dasher, “Women’s Leadership, 1915–1970: The Waning Years,” in A Woman’s Place, ed. Rosa Taylor Banks (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1992), 75–84; Kit Watts, “The Rise and Fall of Adventist Women in Leadership,” Ministry 68, no. 4 (April 1995): 6–10; Kit Watts, “Moving Away from the Table: A Survey of Historical Factors Affecting Women Leaders,” in The Welcome Table, eds. Patricia A. Habada and Rebecca Frost Brillhart (Langley Park, MD: TEAMPress, 1995), 45–59; Laura L. Vance, Seventh-day Adventism in Crisis: Gender and Sectarian Change in an Emerging Religion (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1999).

17. This saga has been ably documented by Douglas Morgan, Change Agents: The Lay Movement that Challenged the System and Turned Adventism Toward Racial Justice (Oak & Acorn Publishing, 2020).

18. Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2012), 84.

19. See this post from Adventist Sabbath Studies (blog), which quotes sources from the 1930s about this tradition that developed: https://sermonsandstudies.wordpress. com/2012/06/25/painting-of-jesus/ [accessed 1/3/22]. This is also based on experience working for the White Estate from oral tradition gathered during the 1990s.

20. “The Preacher Gets ‘Em and Tells It to ‘Em Straight,” Oklahoma Herald, December 11, 1923: 1.

21. “Beneath a Cross Klansman Sleeps,” Oklahoma Herald, August 15, 1922: 1.

22. [Milton C. Wilcox], “Christianity and Secret Societies,” Signs of the Times, May 18, 1904: 6.

23. Sanford B. Horton, “Study for the Missionary Volunteer Society: The Civil War and the Reconstruction Period,” The Youth’s Instructor, July 27, 1909: 13.

24. Cf. “The Modern Ku Klux Klan,” The Educational Messenger, July 1922: 27, which notes the prevalence of the Klan and the primary concern expressed is that it is a money-making scheme.

25. [Alonzo] B[aker], “More Catholic Testimony,” Signs of the Times, July 17, 1923: 5.

26. “The Modern Ku Klux Klan,” The Educational Messenger, July 1922: 27.

27. See note in Field Tidings, Jan. 6, 1926: 4.

28. “Practising [sic] What We Preach,” Review and Herald, November 24, 1921: 14.

29. “To Hold Others in Check,” The Youth’s Instructor, October 18, 1921: 11.

30. “Do All Roads Lead to Rome,” Columbia Union Visitor, August 30, 1923: 7.

31. W. E. Barr, “Ku Klux Gives Donation,” Southwestern Union Record, May 16, 1922: 5.

32. This particular revival effort was long remembered. See the story as recorded in “We’ve Never Had So Many Baptized,” The Ministry, November 1973, https://www.

33. “With the Ku Klux Clan [sic],” The Sligonian, March 1922: 23.

34. A. W. Spaulding, Lights and Shades in the Black Belt, unpublished manuscript, 62–67,

35. S. B. Horton, “The Parochial School Issue,” Lake Union Herald, September 27, 1922: 3.

36. [C. V. McVagh], “Ku Klux Klan,” The Canadian Watchman, May 1921: 4–5.

37. [C. M. Snow], Editorial, Signs of the Times [Australian], April 2, 1923: 4.

38. Philip Jenkins, The Great and Holy War: How World War I Became a Religious Crusade (New York: HarperOne, 2014), 211.

39. “Adventists Put Klan on Black List,” Los Angeles Times, May 27, 1925: 28.

40. Cf. Felix Harcourt, Ku Klux Kulture: America and the Klan in the 1920s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017); Kelly J. Baker, Gospel According to the Klan: The KKK’s Appeal to Protestant America, 1915–1930 (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 2011).

41. William Rawlings, The Second Coming of the Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2016), 1.


Michael W. Campbell is a professor of religion at Southwestern Adventist University. He was recently named as the new director of Archives, Statistics, and Research for the North American Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. His new book, 1922: The Rise of Adventist Fundamentalism, is available now. 

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