Local Quakers to Highlight the Writings of Barrington Dunbar

October 13, 2020

Dunbar Interpreted Violence Associated with 1960s Black Power Movement

Quakers more than 50 years ago called upon Barrington Dunbar to interpret the violence associated with the Black Power Movement of the 1960s — many found what they learned to be unsettling.

PICTURED: Campus Friends Meeting members Patricia Thomas and Gary Huffenberger will present the Oct. 20 Quaker Lecture.

Local Quakers Patricia Thomas and Gary Huffenberger, members of Campus Friends Meeting, will engage in dialogue based upon the writings of Dunbar, followed by an interactive discussion, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m., via the main Wilmington College Facebook page.

Titled “A Quaker Speaks from the Black Experience: A Conversation with Barrington Dunbar,” their presentation in the Office of Campus Ministry Quaker Lecture Series is designed to tie Dunbar’s interpretations of the black liberation struggle highlighted in the 1950s and ’60s with the challenges occurring today in America.

Dunbar joined the 57th Street Friends Meeting in the early 1960s while working as a community organizer in Chicago’s inner city. In 1967, he attended the Black Power Conference in Newark, N.J., as a representative of the American Friends Service Committee. He is believed to have been the only Quaker present at the meeting.

Subsequently, Friends called upon Dunbar to interpret the violence associated with factions of the national movement, to which he shared his conviction that: “Institutional racism in America in covert violence perpetuated by white on black Americans — and Friends have accommodated to it.”

His interpretation was unsettling to many whites, including Quakers.

Thomas, a life-long Friend who grew up in the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Friends Meeting, has a Master of Ministry degree from the Earlham School of Religion and served as pastor to Chester Friends Meeting. She also was campus minister from 1993 to 1997 at Wilmington College, where taught as an adjunct faculty member. She serves as co-pastor at Fairview Friends Meeting.

Thomas is the author of the novel, I Was a Stranger, the first book in the Pastor and Professor Quaker Mystery Series.

Huffenberger is interested in the potential of the Friends’ religion to help bring about social change. He graduated from Wilmington College in 1987 and is a staff writer with the Wilmington News Journal.