After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915

After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915

After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915

After Redemption: Jim Crow and the Transformation of African American Religion in the Delta, 1875-1915

Synopsis

After Redemption fills in a missing chapter in the history of African American life after freedom. It takes on the widely overlooked period between the end of Reconstruction and World War I to examine the sacred world of ex-slaves and their descendants living in the region more densely settled than any other by blacks living in this era, the Mississippi and Arkansas Delta. Drawing on a rich range of local memoirs, newspaper accounts, photographs, early blues music, and recently unearthed Works Project Administration records, John Giggie challenges the conventional view that this era marked the low point in the modern evolution of African-American religion and culture. Set against a backdrop of escalating racial violence in a region more densely populated by African Americans than any other at the time, he illuminates how blacks adapted to the defining features of the post-Reconstruction South-- including the growth of segregation, train travel, consumer capitalism, and fraternal orders--and in the process dramatically altered their spiritual ideas and institutions. Masterfully analyzing these disparate elements, Giggie's study situates the African-American experience in the broadest context of southern, religious, and American history and sheds new light on the complexity of black religion and its role in confronting Jim Crow.

Excerpt

I … tells my Father all about my trials here below. We are free, but we can’t stop
praying; we must keep on…. We have been let loose, and now we are just
marching on to a better land
.

—Octavia V. R. Albert, The House of Bondage,
or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves, p
. 5

In June 1893, Reverend S. A. Moseley gave one of the most important speeches of his young life to a crowd of several hundred fellow black Baptists, mostly sharecroppers and tenant farmers drawn like him from the Arkansas Delta. Born about the time of the outbreak of the Civil War, Moseley was pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church in Pine Bluff, a cotton town nestled on the banks of the Arkansas River in the southwestern corner of the state. Tall, thin, mustachioed, and gifted with a silver tongue, he was a rising star in his denomination when he addressed the annual meeting of the Arkansas Sunday School Convention held that year outside of the state capitol. He attemped to make sense of the strange plight of southern African Americans since the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation thirty years earlier, drawing upon his life in the Delta for insight.

The preacher opened on a triumphant note, proudly reminding his audience that since slavery “[m]any have been our trials, great our conflicts, and bitter our experiences; but out of them the Lord has brought us safe. …” His upbeat tone quickly sunk, however, as he turned his attention to the recent upheavals in local and regional politics and blamed them for unleashing a “sectional, selfish, and partial” pestilence that was “more dreadful than the yellow fever, small pox, cholera or any other ever visited upon human beings.” Fast spreading across the South, this . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.