Christian Action and Black Consciousness Community Programmes in South Africa1

Many scholars have examined the relationship between Black Theology and Black Consciousness in South Africa in the late 1960s and 1970s. This article analyses another Christian link. It argues that ecumenical organisations (such as the Christian Institute and the South African Council of Churches), foreign churches, radical priests, and local parishes occupied a position in society that allowed them to give significant material support to the Black Consciousness movement, particularly the Black Community Programmes (BCP), a development organisation run by Black Consciousness activists (including Ben Khoapa and Steve Biko). Drawing upon archival and oral history sources, the article first analyses the formation of the BCP, then discusses the financial contributions of churches that enabled the BCP to survive. Finally, it demonstrates how activists gained physical space, in-roads into communities, and moral support from local priests and parishes at the grassroots level in the Eastern Cape and Natal and Transvaal provinces.

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