American Kulturkampf: Evangelical Christian Schools and Modern Conservatism
Joseph Crespino

About the research


NAEd/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship

Award Year



Emory University

Primary Discipline

This project examines competing claims over the purposes and prospects of private schools in the United States since the Brown decision. It uses these debates as the centerpiece for a broader examination of race, religion and citizenship in modern America.The dramatic rise of private evangelical Christian schools in the United States since the 1960s coincided with the struggle over the desegregation of American public schools, an effort that had its roots in the American South but which by the 1970s was clearly seen as a national concern. Debates surrounding the growth of private schools, many of them with religious affiliations, helped fuel the cultural and political struggle between secular liberals and religious conservatives. Critics of these schools characterized them as havens for right-wing, Christian fundamentalists trying to avoid public school desegregation. To their defenders, these schools were bulwarks against an increasingly secularized society that was hostile both to religious faith and traditional values.This study uses a range of primary sources—including archival manuscript collections, government document, interviews and databases—to evaluate these competing claims about the nature and the impact of these institutions. It will pay particular attention to this debate as it was manifested in fights over federal tax policy towards private religious schools in the 1970s and early 1980s. The study has important implications for the study of public school desegregation, evangelical Christian politics and history, and the history of modern American conservatism.
About Joseph Crespino

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