The struggle for equality has been a central motif in the history of black Oklahomans, but the experience of African Americans in the state has transcended racial protest. Behind the walls of segregation existed a vigorous social, cultural, and institutional life. Preeminently, the black church stood at the very center of black community life. It represented not only a place to worship, but a valuable social outlet in an era when Oklahoma limited black access to publicly supported facilities. Although Baptists and Methodists accounted for the overwhelming number of black worshipers, a small number of other religious groups appeared in the community. By the mid-twentieth century, roughly eighty thousand blacks had membership in the nearly eight hundred churches that dotted the Oklahoma landscape. Some scholars have viewed the African American church as religiously orthodox, but the state of Oklahoma had a number of ministers, such as E. W. Perry of Oklahoma City, who preached the social gospel and who taught that Christianity should reject injustice.


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