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Reviews521 elsewhere called "postsouthem" history, a way back to "myth and tradition" insofar as that formula describes something vital to the heyday of the southern renaissance, Simpson endorses Fred Hobson's thesis that African American writers will turn out to be the saviors of southern literature. They are the true agrarians, Hobson argues, and Simpson agrees. Simpson admits that "although the search for meaning illuminates the historical context of the seeking, it can in no wise transcend it, being in itself an inextricable part of whatever meaning may be disclosed." Thus is Simpson himself implicated, illuminated in his own historical context. African American writers might trigger a quite different renaissance. The absence of any exploration of gender in the essays weakens the effectiveness of the whole. Simpson features only one woman writer, Elizabeth Madox Roberts, but she appears the sexless artist of the "constant tension between self and history." It is dangerous to assume that self and history, myth and tradition might be the same for different races; it is even more dangerous not to ask the gender question. Sacred Space: Photographs from the Mississippi Delta. By Tom Rankin. University Press of Mississippi, 1993. 96 pp. Cloth, $35.00; paper $19.95. Reviewed by Susan Kidd, director of the Southern Regional Office of the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Charleston, South Carolina. Growing up in Georgia, we attended my father's "country" church on occasion during the year and always on "First Sunday"—the church's homecoming that fell on the first Sunday of each August. There were some differences between my father's church and the "city" church (in a town with a population of about 12,000) I regularly attended with my mother: the rituals were simpler, the messages more personal, and the voices less inhibited. Tom Rankin's excellent photographs in Sacred Space document these traits of rural religious institutions in the South and record those specific to African American culture . Rankin's introduc- Reprinted with the permission of the University Press of Mississippi. 522Southern Cultures tory essay and Charles Reagan Wilson's foreword guide us through the historic and spiritual significance of these buildings, cemeteries, and rituals. Rural church buildings in Mississippi, and, in fact, in much of the South, are at risk. Rankin attributes this partly to the exodus from the farm to the city. Many small town and big city southerners have shared, and still share, my family's experience of being visitors at the rural church of our roots. However, we do not provide the time or financial commitment to keep these churches alive. The supporters of these churches are strong, but there are fewer of them. African American rural churches have experienced additional struggles. Rankin cites research by C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrencelt Aramiya in 1978 that concluded many African American churches in the South were burned or bombed between 1962 and 1965—targets of white opposition to the civil rights movement. Rankin's photographs simultaneously evoke a celebration of the rural church buildings that do remain and a mourning of those that have been lost. He makes us keenly aware of the strength and grace present in the African American people of the Delta and of the beauty and symbolism their religious places hold. How do folklorists, architectural historians, historians, and others define "sacred spaces"? Unlike other terms that are tied to the vocabulary of one of these professions, "sacred space" is defined by each individual who is participating in its use or trying to understand its use by others. There are, however, usually common attributes associated with certain types of sacred spaces. Tom Rankin has reached an understanding of the sacred spaces he has documented through his photographs. The attributes of the churches are straightforward: simple, frame structures—weathered but standing strong. The structures are pushed up against a natural landscape that probably holds for the congregation a significance almost equal to that of the building. There is no hard pavement, and while we know the churchyards may have held cars, these photographs allow our imaginations to go back further and see the members arriving by foot or wagon. The apparent randomness of gravestones and landscaping is deceiving. In...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 521-523
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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