Protest and Print Culture in the A.M.E. Church
Publication Year: 2012
Race Patriotism: Protest and Print Culture in the A.M.E. Church examines important nineteenth-century social issues through the lens of the AME Church and its publications. This book explores the ways in which leaders and laity constructed historical narratives around varied locations to sway public opinion of the day. Drawing on the official church newspaper, the Christian Recorder, and other denominational and rare major primary sources, Bailey goes beyond previously published works that focus solely on the founding era of the tradition or the eastern seaboard or post-bellum South to produce a work than breaks new historiographical ground by spanning the entirety of the nineteenth century and exploring new geographical terrain such as the American West.
Through careful analysis of AME print culture, Bailey demonstrates that far from focusing solely on the “politics of uplift” and seeking to instill bourgeois social values in black society as other studies have suggested, black authors, intellectuals, and editors used institutional histories and other writings for activist purposes and reframed protest in new ways in the postbellum period.
Adding significantly to the literature on the history of the book and reading in the nineteenth century, Bailey examines AME print culture as a key to understanding African American social reform recovering the voices of black religious leaders and writers to provide a more comprehensive and nuanced portrayal of the central debates and issues facing African Americans in the nineteenth century such as migration westward, selecting the appropriate referent for the race, Social Darwinism, and the viability of emigration to Africa. Scholars and students of religious studies, African American studies, American studies, history, and journalism will welcome this pioneering new study.
Julius H. Bailey is the author of Around the Family Altar: Domesticity in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, 1865–1900. He is an associate professor in the Religious Studies Department at the University of Redlands in Redlands, California.
Published by: The University of Tennessee Press
Title Page, Copyright Page
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The idea for this book has been nurtured through a series of conversations with generous colleagues over a number of years. It was at the NEH Summer Seminar, “Roots: African Dimensions of the Early History and Cultures of the Americas,” at the University of Virginia where I was drawn to the connections between Africa and the early AME Church. My fellow participants in the Young Scholars of American Religion program read early...
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On June 21, 1883, Henry McNeal Turner wrote an article titled “The African Question Again” for the Christian Recorder, the official denominational newspaper of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, in which he assessed not only the state of the African emigration movement but also the nature of African Americans in America. “The whole tendency of our ignoble status...
Chapter 1. Public Protest and the Emergent Black Religious Press
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Print culture had been central to the AME tradition from as early as 1794, when Absalom Jones and Richard Allen produced a pamphlet to challenge misrepresentations of black Philadelphians during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793. Matthew Carey, a well-known printer, claimed publicly in his own pamphlet that African Americans had taken advantage of the outbreak by burglarizing the homes of whites who had left the contaminated city. In...
Chapter 2. The Christian Recorder and the Cultivation of a Reading Culture
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When Benjamin T. Tanner ascended to the editorship of the AME Christian Recorder in 1868, he hoped to not only create a newspaper that rivaled the best white religious periodicals in the country but also make African Americans a “reading people”: “Readers not of trashy novels and story books; but that kind of reader, that loves to read the history as well as the...
Chapter 3. Western Zions
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In “Go West, Young Men,” an article published March 2, 1882, in the official AME newspaper, the Christian Recorder, Bishop Benjamin T. Tanner pleaded for those African Americans considering emigration to Africa to rethink their choice and join those relocating to the American West. According to Tanner, the West not only offered additional professional and agricultural opportunities but also meshed much more closely with the “true spirit” of...
Chapter 4. Should “African” Remain in Our Title?
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On October 4, 1883, Benjamin T. Tanner published the editorial “The Future Church,” which challenged the racial exclusivity found in congregations across the country and questioned the relevancy of keeping “African” in the denominational title of the AME Church. Tanner wrote that the church “must cease to be a church exclusively for colored people. As greatly as we revere the title ‘African,’ we must begin to get ready to put it aside, even...
Chapter 5. The Rhetoric of African Emigration
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In 1878, the AME Church formed a number of denominational committees to investigate the issue of African emigration, presumably to put the question to rest once and for all. The Preachers’ Meeting of the AME Church in Philadelphia issued a statement against the “absurdity of the colored people of America attempting to build up a nationality in Africa.” From their position, the high poverty rate, the black “inexperience” with citizenship and...
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In March 1934, W. E. B. Du Bois reflected on the importance of the AME tradition in African American history. After heralding the role of Richard Allen and Absalom Jones during the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 and summarizing the exodus narrative from St. George’s ME Church after black members refused to be pulled from their knees during the prayer, Du Bois...
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Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2012