Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture

Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture

Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture

Religion in the American South: Protestants and Others in History and Culture


This collection of essays examines religion in the American South across three centuries--from the beginning of the eighteenth century to the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The first collection published on the subject in fifteen years, Religion in the American South builds upon a new generation of scholarship to push scholarly conversation about the field to a new level of sophistication by complicating "southern religion" geographically, chronologically, and thematically and by challenging the interpretive hegemony of the "Bible belt."

Contributors demonstrate the importance of religion in the South not only to American religious history but also to the history of the nation as a whole. They show that religion touched every corner of society--from the nightclub to the lynching tree, from the church sanctuary to the kitchen hearth.

These essays will stimulate discussions of a wide variety of subjects, including eighteenth-century religious history, conversion narratives, religion and violence, the cultural power of prayer, the importance of women in exploiting religious contexts in innovative ways, and the interracialism of southern religious history.


These essays represent work in progress; invitations to write them were ambiguous enough to encourage varied responses, and we were not disappointed. the common concern was to be “religion and the South,” but “the South” could be either the source or the site of a particular investigation. People coming from life experiences in which religion, expressiveness, aspiration, and public performance could not be contained within southern boundaries or places originally imagined in their youth would be as important as those wrestling with the compelling and yet forbidding anguish of salvation within the South. With all of the essays, we hoped to move forward conversations about the ways in which the South and religion, as imagined by historians, revealed something about religion in America as well as something about the region. Besides, it has been fifteen years since the last collection of essays on religion in the South appeared, and much has happened since then. Despite efforts to the contrary, we arrived at a manuscript about Protestantism and southern culture without working from a definition of either. We do have to confess that themes identified with the South—lynching, revivalism, conversion, the Civil War experience, African American faith, charismatic expressiveness, gender and religion, religion and race—are also American themes. This fact is not surprising to students of the South, unless they are among those who study the region as the best, or worst, or most peculiar area of the United States. and yet, even though the list above can refer to American phenomena, it is actually derived from the interests of those who have engaged southerners in varied but frequently tortured religious experiences of race, gender, identity, solidarity, oppression, and violence.

The author of each essay, of course, has his or her own message about the nature of southerners' experience and practice of religion, but collectively we hope that readers will appreciate the importance of including in their understanding of American religion the travails of faith born of peoples from the South who engaged each other across the wastes and boundaries of difference, subordination, hatred, violence, shame, and exclusion. If they did so in flawed . . .

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