Progressive National Baptist Convention
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Founder
Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Gardner Taylor
Time Period
11/14/1961  - 11/15/1961
Description
The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., then the largest black Baptist denomination in America, was split between those ministers who advocated a gradual approach to civil rights activism and those in favor of nonviolent direct action tactics like lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Gardner Taylor led the group in favor of direct action while incumbent NBC President J. H. Jackson was opposed. After a dangerous fistfight broke out at the denomination's annual convention in Kansas City in September 1961, King quietly withdraw from the NBC. That November, 33 ministers formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), which King, Abernathy, and Taylor joined (and Taylor would later become President in 1967). The PNBC remained a stalwart of the civil rights movement and its members were well-represented in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Today, the PNBC claims some 2.5 million members worldwide.
Interactive Timeline(s)
Race/Ethnicity and Religion
Baptist Religious Events and People in American History
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Race/Ethnicity and Religion in American History
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Narrative
The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., then the largest black Baptist denomination in America, was split between those ministers who advocated a gradual approach to civil rights activism and those in favor of nonviolent direct action tactics like lunch counter sit-ins and Freedom Rides. Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, and Gardner Taylor led the group in favor of direct action while incumbent NBC President J. H. Jackson was opposed.

The conflict came to a head in September 1961 at the denomination's annual convention in Kansas City. Taylor had been nominated to run against Jackson for the presidency. On the final night of the convention, Taylor led a "flying wedge" of several hundred ministers in an attempt to storm the platform and demand a voting procedure that would give his faction a better chance at winning. Jackson's supporters met the charge head on and dozens of fistfights broke out. During the scrum, an onlooker, respected pastor A. G. Wright, fell and fractured his skull. The fight continued several more hours until the mayor, backed by riot police, quieted the crowd.

Wright died two days later and when the convention reconvened, Jackson won handily and immediately relieved Martin Luther King Jr. of his influential post as vice president of the NBC's National Sunday School and Baptist Training Union. He then released a public statement blaming King for the incident saying, "The disrespect for law in the move for freedom has opened the way for criminals to come in their midst... Too many preachers have the cloth on the outside but don't have the Gospel on the inside."

The situation was a public relations nightmare for King, forcing him to quietly withdraw from the NBC. That November in Cincinnati, 33 ministers formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention (PNBC), which King, Abernathy, and Taylor joined (and Taylor would later become President in 1967). The PNBC remained a stalwart of the civil rights movement and its members were well-represented in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Congress of Racial Equality. Today, the PNBC claims some 2.5 million members worldwide.
Religious Groups
Baptist Family: Other ARDA Links

Biographies
King, Martin Luther
Abernathy, Ralph
Movements
Civil Rights Movement
Photographs

Martin Luther King, Jr speaking- Flickr- photo by George Conklin (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Martin Luther King, Jr and Ralph Abernathy- Flickr- image from Florida Memory
Book/Journal Source(s)
Branch, Taylor, 1989. Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Web Source(s)
http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_progressive_national_baptist_convention_pnbc/
Web Page Contributor
Paul Matzko
Affliated with: Pennsylvania State University, Ph.D. in History

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