Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor

Monique Moultrie

Second Advisor

Louis Ruprecht

Third Advisor

Brett Esaki


In the Civil Rights era there was a resistance from some White Southern Evangelicals to push for equality for African Americans. This response is often attributed to racist attitudes towards African Americans within the Evangelical and Fundamentalist communities. Although racist attitudes are a definite motivating factor, I believe there is a larger theological argument that also needs to be examined- the internalization of atonement theology and what that meant for the understanding of suffering and sacrifice experienced by African Americans. I will also examine the ways in which atonement theology, specifically the penal substitution and Christus Victor models, influenced Martin Luther King, Jr.’s methods in the fight for Civil Rights as well as the response of Noel Smith, a white fundamentalist preacher, to the movement. In my conclusion, I will discuss the ways atonement theology continues to influence the interpretations and responses of these groups to Civil Rights issues.