Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era

Academic journal article The Arkansas Historical Quarterly

Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era

Article excerpt

Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era. By Paul Harvey. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Pp. xvi, 338. Acknowledgments, abbreviations, illustrations, notes, bibliography, index. $34.95.)

Southern religion has long fascinated social, cultural, and church historians, and recent scholarship, such as Alan Scot Willis' All According to God's Plan: Southern Baptist Missions and Race, 1945-1970 (2004) and Charles A. Israel's Before Scopes : Evangelicalism, Education, and Evolution in Tennessee, 1870-1925 (2005), demonstrates that interest in the faith and religious practice of southerners shows no signs of abating. Paul Harvey, author of Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865-1925 (1997), adds another account of southern religious change.

Harvey sees the religious culture of the civil rights struggle as the product of a partnership between white "progressives" and black evangelicals that began as early as Reconstruction. As Harvey explains, the relationship between black and white evangelicals in the South progressed in three distinct stages: theological racism, or the justification of segregation and Jim Crow laws on theological grounds; racial interchange between southern religious cultures in areas such as musical expression; and Christian interracialism, or the "self-consciously political efforts to undermine the system of southern racial hierarchy" (p. 3). Logically, Harvey chooses to focus on the "theology, the lived experience, the expressive cultures, and the political/civil struggles of white and black Christians in the South" (p. 3).

The book proceeds in three distinct chronological sections. In the section containing the first two chapters, Harvey examines the relationship between blacks and white evangelicals from the 1860s to the 1950s. The middle section, chapter three, is the most entertaining reading, in that it focuses on the cultural interchange in the religiously oriented performing arts and blues music. He reveals the more positive and hopeful story of blackwhite racial interaction, noting that "traveling evangelists, itinerant songsters, faith healers, and other religious novelties attracted biracial crowds in the segregated South" (p. 109). Harvey chronicles the early Pentecostal movements in the South and how they affected both races and the culture of the region. …

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