1954, Edward Earl Cleveland in Montgomery

For More Articles about and by E. E. Cleveland see this site.

The link to Ciro Sepulveda’s full article is here: The Tent and the Cathedral:

White-Collar Adventists and Their Search for Respectability

Ciro Sepulveda

The squad cars drove up to the tent on the corner of Smythe and High Street, across the street from the Tijuana Night Club, in Montgomery, Alabama, the summer of 1954. The officers walked through the aisles of the tent as a thousand or so African-Americans listened to evangelist Edward Earl Cleveland. Initially few noticed. In time, however, the audience became distracted and Cleveland calmly stated, “No need to worry; let the officers do their jobs.” Someone reported that Adventists were violating Alabama ordinances by allowing Whites and Blacks to commingle at a public meeting. Cleveland had publicly insisted such ordinances need not be obeyed since all are children of one God.

The tent in the infested district of Montgomery received two more visitors that summer when the Reverend Ralph Abernathy, pastor of the largest Black congregation in the city and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., canceled their vacations because the Adventists were stealing their sheep. A seamstress named Rosa Parks from the local Lutheran congregation, along with members from other denominations, attended the meetings regularly. Abernathy and King came to investigate. King told Cleveland: “I was informed that a Black Billy Graham was preaching the Gospel, but all I heard was ‘the Law, the Law and the Law.’”

Cleveland, unimpressed by theological discourse, responded; “You must have arrived late because all I preached was ‘the Lord, the Lord, and the Lord.’”

For a century, tents, like the one in Montgomery run by Adventist itinerants, popped up all over the world: the Philippines, Africa, Central and South America, the Caribbean, etc. In 1854 Adventists pitched their first tent on the corner of Van Buren and Tompkins Street in Battle Creek, Michigan. When Adventist numbers grew to a couple of thousand, ten years later, a dozen or so tents appeared in the infested districts of the Old West. By the end of the century tents surfaced from California to New York. When E. E. Cleveland confronted the civil and religious authorities in Montgomery, Adventists had grown into hundreds of thousands, and tents continued to be centerpieces of Adventist ethos…

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3 Responses to “1954, Edward Earl Cleveland in Montgomery”

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