New NPR Podcast on the Murder of James Reeb



In 1965, Rev. James Reeb — a Unitarian minister and civil-rights activist — was killed during the voting rights movement in Selma. After three men were tried and acquitted for his murder, the city’s white community buried the truth. More than 50 years later, two native Alabamians return to Selma to uncover the truth about who killed James Reeb, and to delve into the systems of oppression and violence that allowed it to happen.

In White Lies, a serialized podcast available May 14, co-hosts Andrew Beck Grace and Chip Brantley expose the lies that kept the murder from being solved and uncover a story about guilt, memory and justice that says as much about America today as it does about the past. In a place where lies and silence conspire against them, Brantley and Grace search Selma for living witnesses, guided by an unredacted copy of an old FBI file. They meet people who know the truth about the murder but have lied for decades — until now.

5 thoughts on “New NPR Podcast on the Murder of James Reeb

  1. Bill,
    I am a student of spiritual biography. What makes men and women journey from one church to another or from one religion to an entirely new religion?

    In the case of Rev. Reeb, my guess is that he departed from Presbyterianism into Unitarian Universalism because it provided him a more consistent platform for his social work. As far as the theology he learned at Princeton, it would be interesting to know if he ever believed it or simply had other reasons for being ordained in the first place. By the time Rev. Reeb entered the Unitarian Universalist Association, it had pretty well unofficially shucked classic Socinian and Arian theology as well as classic 18th and 19th Century Universalism.

    As you stated the answers to my questions probably won’t be answered by NPR. I don’t know if there is a good biography on Rev. Reeb in which these matters are discussed. If so, it would make for good reading.



  2. I knew what you were getting at but I think you’re right about how deep NPR will go—–I think your NPR expectations were not realistic. But I now know in more detail where you were heading. Thanks.


  3. Bill,

    While I plan on listening to the podcast, I expect that the writers/speakers will talk primarily about the secular aspects of the civil rights movement rather than the spiritual connections. I hope I am wrong about this particular series, but I know that NPR is not generally interested in deeper religious questions.

    It would be interesting to know if Christians at Conwell School of Theology attempted to influence Rev. Reeb or if he was either positively or negatively touched by his time there. The atmosphere had to be different than his earlier training at Princeton.



  4. Interestingly, Reverend Reeb obtained a post graduate degree in Counseling from Conwell School of Theology in Philadelphia. Conwell later moved to Boston to merge with Gordon College forming evangelical Gordon-Conwell with which Dr. Fea has occasional professional contact.

    James Reeb presumably never was an evangelical. He started his professional career as a Mainline Presbyterian and migrated over time into the Unitarian Universalist Association. It would be interesting to know how he felt about the overall spiritual atmosphere and about his faculty teachers at Conwell School of Theology while he was a graduate student there. I doubt that the upcoming NPR podcast will devote as much time to his spiritual odyssey as it does to his social activism.


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