From the earliest part of the Quaker tradition, Friends have been led to push against inequality. Originally, this was through the spiritual leadership of women such as Elizabeth Hooten, Margaret Fell, Mary Penington, and others. Overtime gender equality gave way to racial equality as abolitionism grew among Friends through the work of leaders such as Anthony Benezet, Benjamin Lay, and John Woolman. Though racial equality was hard fought for and slow to convince many Quakers because there were plenty of Friends who benefited from enslaving Africans. Eventually, in 1774 Philadelphia yearly meeting came to unity on a decision that you could not be a Quaker and enslave human beings. As abolitionism grew among Friends, largely through the work of the underground railroad, different ideas about what that looked like and how it should be implemented was heavily debated without the input of those in the black community. See the talk Slavery, Equity, & Inclusion on a Southern Quaker Campus from Dr. Krishauna Hines-Gaither and Gwen Gosney Erickson at Guilford College for a phenomenal presentation on this subject. Since that time, Quakers have struggled to truly integrate in both meeting house and school (thus the title of McDaniel and Julye’s book Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship). Eventually, as Quakerism began to spread, African Quakers and other Quakers of color are now in the majority around the world though in the US and Europe Quakers remain predominately white. The commitment and leadings toward equality remain but Friends have plenty of work yet to be done (see videos below addressing some of these realities today).
The Black Quaker Project
A project created and led by Dr. Harold Weaver to celebrate the lives and contributions of Quakers of Color worldwide and document and address their concerns.
Friends Journal Articles (A selection)
- A Journey toward Eliminating Racism in the Religious Society of Friends by Vanessa Julye
- Move in Our Midst by Paul Ricketts (March 2017: Race & Anti‐Racism)
- Welcoming the Strong Black Woman Among Us by Valerie Brown (March 2017: Race & Anti‐Racism)
- Witness to Quaker Racism: A Cautionary Tale by Sharon Smith
- Quaker Indian Boarding Schools by Paula Palmer
A Quaker Antiracist Reading List
A Selection of Quaker Speak Videos on the work of Anti-Racism Among Friends
D’Emilio, John. Lost Prophet: The Life and Times of Bayard Rustin. 2nd edition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2004.
Lapsansky-Werner, Emma, and Anne Steere Nash. Black Fire: African American Quakers on Spirituality and Human Rights. Edited by Harold D. Weaver Jr, Paul Kriese, and Steven W. Angell. Philadelphia, PA: Quaker Press of Friends General Conference, 2011.
McDaniel, Donna, and Vanessa D. Julye. Fit for Freedom, Not for Friendship: Quakers, African Americans, and the Myth of Racial Justice. 1st edition. Philadelphia, Pa: QuakerPress of FGC, 2018.
- And here is a link to the Fit for Freedom Study Guide great for personal and small group discussions.
Brother Outsider (2003) – Documentary about the life of Bayard Rustin. http://www.pbs.org/pov/watch/brotheroutsider/