Convervative evangelical activists often speak of America’s historically “Christian roots” and reference the 1950s as an era of strong religious sentiment and high moral standards. That the loudest politically engaged fundamentalist voices of the Cold War years spoke out against the Civil Rights movement — on hundreds of independent TV and radio stations all over the country — is now seen as something of an embarrassment. Thus, most figures of the Old Christian Right have been conveniently left out of the nostalgic histories spun by the New Christian Right. Heather Hendershot’s talk will center on broadcaster Billy James Hargis, showing how he functioned as a bridge from the Cold War Christian Right to the New Christian Right of the 1970s. Hendershot will focus in particular on Hargis’s innovations in direct mail and mechanized mass mailings, his mastery of fundraising rhetoric, his successful campaign against sex education, and his skill at erasing the racist foundations of his Cold War activism.
Heather Hendershot is associate professor of media studies at Queens College, CUNY, and coordinator of the film studies certificate program at CUNY Graduate Center.