Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of History

Committee Chair

Tobin Shearer

Commitee Members

Molly Worthen, Jeff Wiltse, Robert Greene, Quan Ha


20th Century Religion, African American Christianity, Evangelicalism, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Racial Identity


University of Montana


This dissertation examines the history of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship to understand the creation of a color-conscious theological discourse about racial identity and racial pluralism that emerged among evangelicals in the mid-twentieth century. Although a colorblind articulation of racial identity had wide currency among white and black evangelicals as a way to counter segregationists’ claims of racial superiority, it had little effect in challenging the exercise of white hegemony even among those who advocated for racial equality. The limits of colorblindness came to light as black evangelicals forged new approaches to evangelization among African Americans and white evangelicals challenged the validity of those approaches.

The dissertation argues that racial conflicts–disputes about the meaning of race as well as disputes across racial lines–were a critical agent in the transformation of American evangelicalism in the postwar decades. It prompted the arrival of a movement among black evangelicals–a Black Evangelical Renaissance–defined by its vocal opposition to white hegemony and its commitment to disentangling evangelical faith from its use as a tool to maintain America’s racial order. Color-conscious theology emerged from the Black Evangelical Renaissance, prompting a reorientation of the evangelical missionary enterprise around its racially plural constituency and allowing black evangelicals to negotiate more equitable terms for their participation in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.



© Copyright 2019 Timothy Paul Ballard