Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975

Academic journal article The Journal of Southern History

Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975

Article excerpt

Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975. By Carolyn Renee Dupont. (New York and London: New York University Press, 2013. Pp. [xiv], 289. $55.00, ISBN 978-0-8147-0841-5.)

Carolyn Renee Dupont's examination of Mississippi white evangelicals' fervent support of segregation during the 1950s and 1960s offers historians a fresh interpretation of the confounding paradox of God-fearing whites condoning and even participating in massive resistance. In the process, Dupont challenges the idea of "cultural captivity"--which many contemporaneous and early historical accounts asserted--whereby white evangelicals were primarily guilty at worst of refusing to speak out against the violent backlash to civil rights because they were subsumed by the larger culture of white supremacy (p. 6). Instead, the author argues that these white evangelicals actively supported the preservation of segregation, having constructed both a theological and a social rationale for their commitment to the racial status quo, which proved instrumental to the Mississippi white power structure's ability to resist desegregation for as long as it did. In this sense, Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975 takes its cue from Bethany Moreton's To Serve God and Wal-Mart: The Making of Christian Free Enterprise (Cambridge, Mass., 2009) and Darren Dochuk's From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion, Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism (New York, 2011), which have shown how evangelicals did not compartmentalize their theological and economic outlooks within their larger political ideologies. Similarly, Dupont finds a symbiosis between evangelicals' theology and racial stances. According to the author, "Having accepted both evangelicalism and white supremacy as unassailable truths for years, these Mississippians generally regarded as patently absurd the notion that God frowned on their racial arrangements; the sudden appearance of segregation in some syllabus of sins jolted their sensibilities' (p. 2).

Relying significantly on the records of evangelical churches and ministers, Mississippi Praying is as much a story about the debates between national organizations and local Mississippi chapters of Southern Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians as it is an accounting of white evangelical resistance to desegregation. …

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