Religion and Reconstruction

a brief review of "VALE OF TEARS: New Essays on Religion and Reconstruction."
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This book supplies fresh research on one of the saddest chapters in American history. It shows how American churches contributed to the subjugation of freed slaves after the Civil War, how Christian leaders helped the Southern Democratic Party violently deprive black citizens of the vote, and how a number of thoroughly evangelical spokesmen (and spokeswomen) justified lynching as a legitimate means for putting black folk "in their place." Several chapters also explain why most Northern reformers quit the struggle against racism after the constitutional victory over slavery.

Points of light include accounts of freed slaves who persevered in the face of great opposition to build strong churches and accounts of a few whites (some from the South) who resisted the regime of racial terror. All the essays are well researched, but Gaines Foster on how the South became the "Bible Belt" and Daniel Stowell on how the word redemption came to be used for Jim Crow laws are especially effective.

Thoughtful Americans who wonder why the country has a continuing race problem should read this book; thoughtful Christians should read it and weep."

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