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

Handout 2: Time Line of the Empowerment Controversy

From a 2006 unpublished paper, "A Financial Picture of the Empowerment Era" by Julia Hamilton and Megan Lynes.

July, 1963 — Establishment of the Commission on Religion and Race

March, 1965 — Many Unitarian Universalist ministers respond to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's call to join the March to Selma; UU minister James Reeb murdered in Selma.

October, 1967 — Emergency Conference on UU Response to the Black Rebellion (The Biltmore Conference). The Black UU Caucus (BUUC) formed by 30 out of 37 Black delegates to the conference. BUUC presented a list of "non-negotiable" demands to the UUA Board of Trustees:

1. Creation of a Black Affairs Council, funded at $250,000 for four years.

Continuing role for a Black Caucus within the denomination and our right to organize as Blacks amongst themselves.

2. Increasing number of Blacks on every decision making board within the denomination.

3. Such radical alteration in the ministry program that severe racism in this area would be wiped out.

November, 1967 — UUA Board rejects BUUC's non-negotiable demands in favor of the traditional process of negotiation, which results in the Board moving to reorganize the Commission on Religion and Race to "include substantial participation by non-whites." BUUC members and supporters feel betrayed.

November, 1967 — SOBURR formed, a group of whites from the Pacific Southwest urging the support of BAC and withdrawing financial support until the next GA.

February, 1968 — National Conference of Black Unitarian Universalists in Chicago, where 207 delegates represent 600 Black UUs. Following BUUC's recommendation, the Black Affairs Council (BAC) established with six Black members and three White members elected by BUUC.

March, 1968 — BAC invited to have affiliate status with the UUA. Establishment of the UU Fund for Racial Justice (formerly the Freedom Fund).

April, 1968 — FULLBAC (an outgrowth of SOBURR) formed, a group of White allies advocating full financial funding for the BAC.

April, 1968 — Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King Jr. assassinated.

May, 1968 — BAWA formed as a response to BUUC's perceived separatist agenda, in contrast to the integrationist model followed by several historically integrated UU congregations.

May, 1968 — Cleveland General Assembly. Resolution to fully fund BAC is passed 836 votes to 327. BAWA receives no funding. The atmosphere is highly emotionally charged. BUUC feels that progress had been made, given the promise of institutional funding.

June, 1968 — BAWA becomes a UUA affiliate.

June, 1968 — The UUA's unrestricted endowment fund is discovered to be depleted. The BAC's restricted membership (based on racial quotas) is challenged, but accepted.

May, 1969 — Board of Trustees meets, assigns $50,000 funding to BAWA. It should be noted that BAC funding was considered to be "reparational investments," an unprecedented action on the part of the denomination.

July, 1969 — BUUC walks out of GA, after a motion to move the BAC agenda item up from last in the order of business is rejected. Rev. Jack Mendelsohn, vice-chair of BAC, follows the Black caucus members to the Statler Hotel, persuades them not to leave until he has spoken on their behalf on the floor of GA, at which point he invites any interested parties to join him at Arlington Street Church.

Rev. Robert West elected president of the UUA.

The Assembly votes to fund BAC and not BAWA.

January, 1970 — Due to an impending financial crisis, the Trustees vote to change the BAC funding, resulting in $200,000 allocated per year for 5 years. This reduction in funding causes immediate uproar at the open board meeting. February, 1970 — Third annual BUUC meeting. Disaffiliation from the UUA is discussed, which would allow BAC to pursue independent fundraising.

April, 1970 — The BAC is officially removed as a UUA affiliate.

June, 1970 — BUUC/BAC boycott GA. The motion to restore the $50,000 in BAC funding is defeated. This phase of the "Empowerment Controversy" is finished.