Young Men's Christian Association

Emerging out of an early-nineteenth-century wave of evangelical reform, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) offered a wholesome environment to young unmarried men coming to large cities in search of work. In response to rapid industrialization and urbanization, the YMCA sought to propagate a model of masculinity that emphasized the merits of Christian propriety and physical proficiency, while condemning the urban vice that its leaders feared would overtake susceptible youths. This paradigm was frequently embraced by white, middle-class men, though it was often being remade or challenged by working-class, African-American, and gay males. Although the YMCA has instituted significant ideological and structural changes in the twentieth century, its emphasis upon the unity of mind, body, and spirit—symbolized by an inverted red triangle—continues to underscore both ...

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