Masters and Slaves in the House of the Lord

Masters and Slaves in the House of the Lord: Race and Religion in the American South, 1740-1870

John B. Boles Editor
Copyright Date: 1988
Edition: 1
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    Masters and Slaves in the House of the Lord
    Book Description:

    Much that is commonly accepted about slavery and religion in the Old South is challenged in this significant book. The eight essays included here show that throughout the antebellum period, southern whites and blacks worshipped together, heard the same sermons, took communion and were baptized together, were subject to the same church discipline, and were buried in the same cemeteries. What was the black perception of white-controlled religious ceremonies? How did whites reconcile their faith with their racism? Why did freedmen, as soon as possible after the Civil War, withdraw from the biracial churches and establish black denominations? This book is essential reading for historians of religion, the South, and the Afro-American experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4879-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[vi])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-18)

    Race and religion have probably always been controversial topics in the South, as elsewhere, particularly when their intersection has called into question widely accepted folkways about the place of blacks in southern society. Different interpreters have suggested that the South has been haunted by God and preoccupied with race, so perhaps we should not expect a scholarly consensus on how the two intertwined in the decades from the Great Awakening to Reconstruction. The last generation of our own times has witnessed a remarkable burst of scholarship on blacks and race relations in the region and a similar if not quite...

  4. 1 Planters and Slaves in the Great Awakening
    (pp. 19-36)

    Almost four decades before the American Revolution, evangelicals in Georgia and South Carolina advocated an ethos that reconciled the enslavement of their fellowman with the heartfelt hope of elevating the “wretched Race” with Christianity. This essay will argue that one of the sources of slaveholders’ paternalism can be found in the evangelical attempt to reform the institution of slavery in the First Great Awakening. This attempt, led by George Whitefield and the Bryan family, shaped the response of several evangelical slaveholders to the peculiar institution in Georgia and South Carolina. The evangelicals’ accommodation to slavery in the 1740s and 1750s...

  5. 2 Biracial Fellowship in Antebellum Baptist Churches
    (pp. 37-57)

    Several historians over the last decade and a half have shown that whites and blacks often worshiped together in the antebellum South.¹ Individual church records, associational minutes, ministerial diaries, and tombstone inscriptions in old cemeteries all document the biracial nature of antebellum worship. The actual worship experience of blacks in such churches is more difficult to document. Certainly whites intended the gospel as presented to slaves to serve partly as an instrument of social control—that is, they expected devout slaves to be more obedient—but they also expected religion to serve the same purpose for the white population. Many...

  6. 3 Religion in Amite County, Mississippi, 1800-1861
    (pp. 58-80)

    By the tum of the nineteenth century, immigrants had begun to settle in the area that became Amite County, in southwestern Mississippi near Natchez. The gently rolling land was covered with long-leaf and yellow pine forests; streams and rivers provided avenues of transport. Families arriving primarily from South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia settled this fertile region; the population, both black and white, increased rapidly. The region’s early settlers faced the same problem that had confronted pioneers since the discovery of America: how best to create a viable community on the untamed frontier.

    Churches played an important part in...

  7. 4 Black and White Christians in Florida, 1822-1861
    (pp. 81-98)

    As recently as 1970 theNew York Timesnoted that although blacks and whites in the South attended “baseball games, political rallies and carnivals together,” it was “still hazardous to go to church together.”¹ The post–Civil War situation in which eleven o’clock on Sunday is the most segregated hour of the week contrasts starkly with the conditions of worship among black southerners during the antebellum period. In fact, almost the obverse was true, at least concerning “approved” public worship. Examination of the religious experiences of blacks in Florida from territorial days to the outbreak of the Civil War reveals...

  8. 5 Planters and Slave Religion in the Deep South
    (pp. 99-126)

    In recent years many scholars have investigated the religion of slaves in the antebellum South. The first studies focused on the activities of the organized churches; based primarily on denominational records, they examined the white clergy’s enthusiasm for the mission to the slaves.¹ Scholars next delved deeply into the black experience; using a wide variety of sources including slave narratives, they found some evidence that religion promoted both docility and rebellion. Their most important conclusion, however, was that the slaves accepted Christianity and made it an essential part of their culture. It gave meaning and purpose to those in bondage,...

  9. 6 Slaves and Southern Catholicism
    (pp. 127-152)

    For almost their entire history Negro (blacks and mixed bloods) Catholics in the South have been outsiders. Their religion cast them outside the mainstream of southern and black evangelical Protestant currents. Their location largely on the geographic fringes of the region—especially in the Gulf area with its peculiar subregional ambience—placed them outside the political, economic, and social hubs of the Deep South. Their cultural isolation, born of their French and Spanish ties among other factors, left them outside southern historical development. Even within the Catholic church the Negroes struggled for recognition. Demography did not favor them: generous estimates...

  10. 7 Slaves and White Churches in Confederate Georgia
    (pp. 153-172)

    Addressing a white audience in Boston’s Faneuil Hall during January 1842, a young black fugitive named Frederick Douglass turned his thoughts to religion—specifically, southern religion. He branded the gospel preached south of the Mason-Dixon line as a “slaveholder’s religion” that bore little if any resemblance to true Christianity. Southern clergymen, Douglass avowed, would take a biblical text such as “ ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ ” And this is the way they would apply it.

    They would explain it to mean, “slaveholders, do untoslaveholderswhat you would have them do unto you”:—...

  11. 8 After Apocalypse, Moses
    (pp. 173-191)

    More than a hundred years after southern black Christians began to worship separately from white Christians in their own denominations, historians have not determined conclusively how and why the separation took place. Indeed, the general public seems unaware that joint worship was the predominant pattern for Christians in the American South before the Civil War. Although slaves and free Negroes generally sat in designated areas and often partook of the Lord’s Supper after whites, antebellum Christians did share the same ritual meal and the same denominational structures. Then, suddenly, after the Civil War the pattern of joint worship changed to...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 192-242)
  13. Contributors
    (pp. 243-244)
  14. Index
    (pp. 245-257)