God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

God and Race in American Politics: A Short History

Excerpt

This book offers a simply stated thesis about an immensely complicated history. First, race has always been among the most influential elements in American political history, and in many periods absolutely the most influential. Second, religion has always been crucial for the workings of race in American politics. Together, race and religion make up, not only the nation's deepest and most enduring moral problem, but also its broadest and most enduring political influence.

Yet how race and religion have interacted to shape politics has differed dramatically over time and by community. Before the Civil War, religion drove abolitionist assaults upon slavery even as it undergirded influential defenses of slavery in both the North and the South. After that conflict, religion and politics worked very differently for African Americans than for the white majority culture. On the one side, church life opened a limited space for black social organization and intellectual improvement, even though the political effects of that opening would not be evident for another century. On the other side, the political effects were immediate. A Christianity mostly bereft of its antebellum social vitality played a major part in sanctioning systematic white discrimination against African Americans. In turn, the racially defined polity that religious forces helped to create . . .

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