Christian Citizens: Reading the Bible in Black and White in the Postemancipation South

Univ. of North Carolina. Nov. 2020. 242p. ISBN 9781469659695. $29.95. REL
Postemancipation, whites and Blacks in the South were reading the same Bible, but they offered contradictory interpretations of what it said about their mutual relationship. Utilizing diaries, sermons, and other archival material, Jemison (religion, Clemson Univ.) argues that formerly enslaved people interpreted the Bible as saying that they should be considered equals as Christians, as they were now to be considered equal as citizens, while the white Southern Protestants still saw themselves in a paternalistic role in relation to their Black compatriots. In well-wrought prose, Jemison examines both arguments, and shows that the attitude that the white Southerners had toward Black people changed drastically once they no longer had a personal interest in their well-being. Continuing the narrative through the end of the 19th century, Jemison demonstrates that the concern that white Southern Protestants had for womanly virtue and family integrity did not translate into the same concern for freed Blacks and their descendants.
VERDICT This well-researched and well-written book offers a corrective to certain of the popular myths about race relations in the pre-Civil War South, and of postemancipation relations; it also has a good deal to teach us about race relations today.
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