Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Resistance and Transformation: An Adult Program on Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History

Handout 2: The Cost

From the minutes of an annual meeting of The First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, date unknown (sometime after 1966).

This financial information was provided to the congregation at an annual meeting, in order to explain the need to refinance the mortgage on the building. It describes the financial costs incurred by the congregation as a result of its social justice activities. Lines in italics are clarifications not found in the original document.

13.60 dollars per week for 7 years to finance a radio program, starting in 1950.

25,000 dollars Freedom Fund (This money was raised from outside sources, primarily from Unitarians across the country who donated to the cause.)

  • paid for the groceries, etc. of white families (who lost their jobs) after keeping their kids in integrated schools
  • paid for legal defense of church members arrested for sit-in
  • grant given to William Higgs (the only white attorney in Mississippi who would take civil rights cases and a member of the Jackson congregation until he was forced to leave the state)
  • financed the work of the Freedom Riders
  • provided bail money for a student protestor
  • paid for radio spots urging families to return their children to school
  • paid for an armed guard for a full month outside the parsonage after the building had been bombed by the KKK
  • paid for the expenses of many civil rights cases

50,000 dollars from Arthur Miller and others to pay for civil rights cases (Ben Smith, a New Orleans lawyer and member of the congregation, was one of the only attorneys in the city who would take up civil rights cases. The congregation took an active role in legal action surrounding desegregation.)

100,000 dollars for a "Black Cultural Organization" (acted as a fiscal sponsor) (Because the church was one of the few places where blacks and whites could meet and share a meal together, the church building became a home to any number of organizations that could not find meeting spaces anywhere else.)

By 1965 Freedom Fund was exhausted.

Other considerations:

  • Sold the Parsonage for 19,000 dollars to pay for debts resulting from activities
  • Took on a mortgage of 70,000 dollars to pay for a new building (Their old one was condemned during their civil rights activities.)
  • Some members reduced pledges to 2 dollars per year
  • Loss of membership (The congregation lost at least 40 members when it split in 1958.)
  • Insurance doubled to 2,000 dollars a year (1965) (after the bombing)

Summary: In 1967, the congregation had only 17,000 dollars in savings and owed 56,000 dollars.