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A Most Stirring and Significant Episode: Religion and the Rise and Fall of Prohibition in Black Atlanta, 1865-1887

Overview

When Atlanta enacted prohibition in 1885, it was the largest city in the United States to do so. A Most Stirring and Significant Episode examines the rise of temperance sentiment among freed African Americans that made this vote possible—as well as the forces that resulted in its 1887 reversal well before the 18th Amendment to the Constitution created a national prohibition in 1919.
 
H. Paul Thompson Jr.’s research also sheds light on the...

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A Most Stirring and Significant Episode: Religion and the Rise and Fall of Prohibition in Black Atlanta, 1865-1887

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Overview

When Atlanta enacted prohibition in 1885, it was the largest city in the United States to do so. A Most Stirring and Significant Episode examines the rise of temperance sentiment among freed African Americans that made this vote possible—as well as the forces that resulted in its 1887 reversal well before the 18th Amendment to the Constitution created a national prohibition in 1919.
 
H. Paul Thompson Jr.’s research also sheds light on the profoundly religious nature of African American involvement in the temperance movement. Contrary to the prevalent depiction of that movement as being one predominantly led by white, female activists like Carrie Nation, Thompson reveals here that African Americans were central to the rise of prohibition in the south during the 1880s. As such, A Most Stirring and Significant Episode offers a new take on the proliferation of prohibition and will not only speak to scholars of prohibition in the US and beyond, but also to historians of religion and the African American experience.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"H. Paul Thompson breaks new ground with A Most Stirring and Significant Episode. This excellent work offers a book-length study of African Americans in the nineteenth-century temperance movement, and is also a welcome contribution to the growing field of literature about temperance and prohibition in the southern United States. Focusing on the freedpeople of Atlanta, Thompson takes seriously the role that religion played in this community’s reform efforts."
— Journal of Southern Religion
 

"...historians interested in questions of politics, gender, religion, and urban life in postbellum southern history are indebted to his pioneering and richly detailed study."
—Journal of American History

"In this fine study we learn that while Black Atlanta adopted temperance mores from northern missionaries after the Civil War, black leaders took ownership of the issue and carefully considered whether or not to support local option prohibition. . . . By the time statewide prohibition went into effect, Jim Crow disfranchisement had stripped blacks of their political influence. . . . Yet this should not obscure or diminish the importance of the local option elections from the 1880s. Far too often historians have organized their studies around a teleology culminating in the Eighteenth Amendment. Thompson reminds us that there is much to be learned about reform and the social and cultural boundaries that shaped it in these earlier, and deeply meaningful, local contests."
—Lee L. Willis, American Historical Review

"He depicts black Atlantans' embrace of prohibition and the subsequent flurry of interracial politics as a manipulative sham undone by the region's racial sins rather than a promising path not taken. . . . Thompson's work  . . . should stand as a testament to the dynamism of southern prohibition and a welcome reminder to better appreciate the many motivations of the various men and women who so ardently championed it."
—Joseph Locke, Journal of Southern History

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Product Details

Meet the Author

H. Paul Thompson, Jr. is associate professor of history at North Greenville University. He is also president of the South Carolina Historical Association.

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