Magazine article The Christian Century

Essential Books On: Religion in the American South

Magazine article The Christian Century

Essential Books On: Religion in the American South

Article excerpt

Religion in the Old South, by Donald G. Mathews (University of Chicago Press). Mathews's 1977 classic is a relatively short synthetic analysis that clearly, profoundly, and theologically explores the meaning of Christianity in the slave society of the old South.

Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South, by Albert J. Raboteau (Oxford University Press). Addressing themes ranging from African religions to the "middle passage for the Gods," from the rise of slave forms of Christianity to the role of religion in slave rebellion and resistance, this masterful work retains its preeminent status as the first book to read to survey the meaning of religion for African slaves in the United States. The restrained elegance of the prose accentuates the profound importance of the subject.

Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, 1954-63, by Taylor Branch (Simon & Schuster). Alongside Robert Caro and Doris Kearns Goodwin, Branch stands as one of the masters of the art of narrative history. Through the sheer power of his storytelling, he establishes that the years from 1954 to 1963 were indeed the King years because Martin Luther King Jr. had a far greater permanent impact than any political, social, or religious leader of that time. Branch almost single-handedly resurrected attention to the career of King's predecessor in his first pulpit in Montgomery, Alabama: Vernon Johns, a complex and multifaceted figure whose elusive stories and personal myth escaped even a master like Branch. …

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