Thu | Jan 28, 2021

Letter of the Day | Billy Graham a staunch advocate against racism

Published:Thursday | March 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM


It is a bit of an old canard to level a charge that United States evangelist Billy Graham did not challenge American racism. The Rev Devon Dick, in his column of March 15, 2018, noted that the claim had been made by one of his acquaintances. It is not new and so easily disproved.

In several biographies, published articles and pictures, and recorded sermons, it has been reported that Graham insisted, at the time when it was the law in the Southern United States for blacks and whites to be kept separate at public events, that he would not preach to segregated crowds, He insisted on the removal of ropes that separated the races at public rallies, noting that "at the foot of the cross, there is no colour barrier".

Even as a Southern Baptist, he publicly supported Martin Luther King Jr (MLK) at a time when it was not popular to do so in some places. MLK prayed on the platform at one of his 1957 rallies. Famous African American singer Pearl Bailey appeared at some.

Of course, he can be criticised for not arguing more forcefully against social injustice and using his influence with the political elite to effect change, but it is not true that he kept silent on the matter of racism. In addition, he addressed the matter several times in the Decision magazine, a publication of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, as a manifestation of pride and sin in the human heart.

The charge of racist attitudes and sentiments can be more validly levelled at his son, Franklin.