Southern Civil Religions
Imagining the Good Society in the Post-Reconstruction Era
Publication Year: 2011
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the Lost Cause gave white southerners a new collective identity anchored in the stories, symbols, and rituals of the defeated Confederacy. Historians have used the idea of civil religion to explain how this powerful memory gave the white South a unique sense of national meaning, purpose, and destiny. The civil religious perspectives of everyone else, meanwhile, have gone unnoticed.
Arthur Remillard fills this void by investigating the civil religious discourses of a wide array of people and groups—blacks and whites, men and women, northerners and southerners, Democrats and Republicans, as well as Catholics, Protestants, and Jews. Focusing on the Wiregrass Gulf South region—an area covering north Florida, southwest Georgia, and southeast Alabama—Remillard argues that the Lost Cause was but one civil religious topic among many. Even within the white majority, civil religious language influenced a range of issues, such as progress, race, gender, and religious tolerance. Moreover, minority groups developed sacred values and beliefs that competed for space in the civil religious landscape.
Published by: University of Georgia Press
Series: The New Southern Studies
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My introduction to southern religious history and civil religion came by way of Charles Reagan Wilson’s Baptized in Blood. To say that I was apprehensive when I asked him to read an earlier draft of this book would be an understatement. Yet, Charles not only gave his seal of approval; he also provided invaluable feedback and guided me through the ...
INTRODUCTION. Competing Visions of the Good Society
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This book is about the diverse and competing ideal visions of society existing in the post-Reconstruction South (ca. 1877–1920). Blacks, whites, men, women, northerners, southerners, Democrats, Republicans, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews all spoke of social unity, peace, and prosperity. Their preferred means for achieving these ends, however, often ...
ONE: Progressive Voices, Traditional Voices: Reconstruction, Redemption, and the “Gospel of Material Progress”
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The lost cause loomed large in the white Wiregrass South’s social identity, physical landscape, and daily discussions. But as a civil religious force, it stood neither alone nor without opposition. “Mr. Pollard, in his history The Lost Cause, talks pathetically about the people’s grief and lament over the downfall of the Confederacy,” charged John Crary ...
TWO: Black Voices, White Voices: The Race Problem as a Place Problem
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Benjamin Jefferson Davis called his hometown of Dawson, Georgia, a “peaceful” place but qualified that assertion by noting that “it was the peace of the master’s domination over the slave; a kind of peace that white supremacists say is disturbed when Negroes become restless for their rights.” To maintain this peace, Davis continued, blacks ...
THREE: Female Voices, Male Voices: Devotion and the “Noble Daughters of the South”
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“What a strong power for good or evil is a woman’s influence,” decreed a Pensacola editor. “In all ages there have been instances where women have by their force of will or fascination of manner incited men to crimes or to the highest and holiest ambition.” The “vilest” women ...
FOUR: Jewish Voices, Gentile Voices: “The Soul of America Is the Soul of the Bible”
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Shortly after the civil war, Samuel Farkas, a Hungarian Jewish immigrant, arrived in Albany, Georgia. Armed with little more than a strong work ethic, he launched a mule-trading business and, within ten years, rose to become a distinguished businessman and property owner. His horse, “Albany Boy,” was a frequent sight at the ...
FIVE: Catholic Voices, Nativist Voices: True and Untrue Americans
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In 1908, father Patrick Bresnahan settled at his missionary headquarters in Tallahassee. He would compliment the city for its relative lack of anti-Catholicism, crediting this to the “educated and cultured” population. “The bigotry that did show up,” he noted, “was imported in vomitings of ‘cheap’ politicians seeking power or money.” ...
AFTERWORD. What If?
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Caroline Walker Bynum has written, “My understanding of the historian’s task precludes wholeness. Historians, like fishes of the sea, regurgitate fragments. Only supernatural power can reassemble fragments so completely that no particle of them is lost, or miraculously empower the part to be the whole.”1 This book has investigated “fragments” of ...
APPENDIX. Population Data for the South and Wiregrass Region
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2011
Series Title: The New Southern Studies