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Reviews387 far-reaching application wherever the Afro-Baptist church exists; nonetheless, the unity connecting his fieldwork to the text is compromised by his failure to explain this breach or to recontextualize his study. Another concern involves Pitts's interpretation of the significance of the initiation process, as it relates to the African American experience. He elects not to investigate baptism as the "disguised form" that initiation rituals may have taken in North America. Instead, to further his own thesis, he compares the first Afro-Baptist frame to West African initiation rites. He grants that in both instances "future mediums are cleansed and trained" but notes that "the former lacks scarification, physical isolation, and dietary restraints." According to other scholars of African American religion, the time baptismal candidates spend on the mourner's bench in many ways corresponds to African rite because isolation and fasting traditionally are required. Pitts's bibliography and notations indicate his awareness of research by Charles Williams, Albert Raboteau, Melville Herskovits, and Stephen Glazier in this area, yet he does not to explore this prospect. Here, conformity with past authorities may have strengthened Pitts's own case. Even with these criticisms, The Old Ship ofZion is a viable and important work. The author writes with confidence. He is to be commended for allowing the voices of his subjects to ring through. The Old Ship ofZion is obviously a labor of love. It is lamentable that Walter Pitts is not with us to see his labor bear fruit as colleagues, young scholars, and others benefit from this book. Voices from Alabama: A Twentieth-Century Mosaic. By J. Mack Lofton Jr. University of Alabama Press, 1993. 368 pp. Paper, $24.95. Reviewed by Wayne Flynt, Distinguished University Professor at Auburn University. A lifelong resident ofAlabama, Flynt has authored eight books, half of them concerning his home state. His writing has focused primarily on poor whites, though his newest work is a coauthored college level textbook entitled Alabama: The History of a Deep South State. For several decades historians have disputed the value of calling tape-recorded oral interviews "history." No one doubts the usefulness of personal reminiscence when used as one of many sources. But as freestanding accounts of past events, oral memory claims remain dubious for many historians. Despite such skepticism, few question the value of oral histories , with ordinary people as a way of providing a perspective on the past by people who are ordinarily ignored. Flawed though such memories may be by passing time and personal ego, they afford many ordinary people their only authentic voice. Voices from Alabama embodies both the perils and possibUities of such projects. I cannot in good conscience call this book a work of history. There is neither context nor criticism. I am left to speculate on these memory claims about the past, to ponder whether the stories ring true or false, whether they can be contradicted by other evidence or other memories. In structure the book is quite similar to the works of Studs Terkel, Chicago talkshow host and author of such best-selling volumes as Working, Hard Times, and The Good War. Like Terkel, Lofton lifts topical paragraphs from his tapes and locates them in chapters devoted to rural life, work, religion, education, foods, business, law and order, the 388Southern Cultures Great Depression, World War II, recreation, kinship, and death. Although the geographical coverage is satisfactory, the southeast Wiregrass area of the state is notably undenepresented in the interviews. The book contains little analysis beyond organizing assumptions, although such assumptions do reveal much about Alabama. For instance, dividing chapters on country and city life into "upper" and "lower" Alabama recognizes historic patterns of sectionaUsm within the state. Attention to religion and kinship assumes that ordinary people found effective ways to cope with extraordinary trouble. Underlying the section on education is the herculean effort of people to prepare their chUdren for better lives and the often naive faith they had in schools as a panacea. Few histories of Alabama speak of baseball, football, or fishing. Yet the frequency with which these interviewees speak of such recreation makes it clear that social historians need to spend much more time on the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 387-388
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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