Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans

Hardcover (Print)
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $25.98
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 60%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (10) from $25.98   
  • New (5) from $30.07   
  • Used (5) from $25.98   

Overview

"Bennett offers a complex picture of racial separatism and integration within the religious life of the post-Reconstruction South. He challenges many common assumptions and helps us to see how complicated life was for freed slaves, and how much their struggle cost them personally. A superior contribution."—Albert Raboteau, author of Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans

"James Bennett's superbly researched book tackles the still timely problem of racial prejudice in American religion. Bennett's heart-rending account of the Jim Crow era in New Orleans describes the African-American insistence on open and mixed congregations amidst the failure of many white Protestant and Catholic leaders to resist bigotry. With stunning probity, it sheds new light on some of the most difficult events in America's religious and social development."—Jon Butler, Yale University

"A significant, innovative contribution to our understanding of segregation, religion and the South. Bennett's scholarship is impressive and he has produced a fine, well-written book."—Donald G. Mathews, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

American Catholic Studies - Justin D. Poche
Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans is a remarkable analysis of the complex and competing forces that shaped the south at the turn of the century. Bennett is certainly right in asserting that an examination of these moments of possibility, these opportunities for a social world that did not arise, intensify our awareness of the social order that did.
Journal of Southern History - Stephen W. Angell
This is an enormously intelligent book about the confrontations and negotiations within Methodist and Catholic churches over issues of race, focusing on the period between 1877 and 1920. . . . This book sets a high standard for analysis of the nineteenth-century evolution of religion and race, and scholars of American religion and history will find it an indispensable resource.
American Catholic Studies - Justin D. Poché
Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans is a remarkable analysis of the complex and competing forces that shaped the south at the turn of the century. Bennett is certainly right in asserting that an examination of these moments of possibility, these opportunities for a social world that did not arise, intensify our awareness of the social order that did.
From the Publisher
"James Bennett has written a superb study of the tensions between religion and race among black Methodists and Catholics in New Orleans between 1880 and 1920. . . . [He] provides important comparisons of Methodist and Roman Catholic leaders and church members who either resisted or supported racial separatism and the effects of this growing separatism on their identity."—Choice

"Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans is a remarkable analysis of the complex and competing forces that shaped the south at the turn of the century. Bennett is certainly right in asserting that an examination of these moments of possibility, these opportunities for a social world that did not arise, intensify our awareness of the social order that did."—Justin D. Poché, American Catholic Studies

"This is an enormously intelligent book about the confrontations and negotiations within Methodist and Catholic churches over issues of race, focusing on the period between 1877 and 1920. . . . This book sets a high standard for analysis of the nineteenth-century evolution of religion and race, and scholars of American religion and history will find it an indispensable resource."—Stephen W. Angell, Journal of Southern History

Choice
James Bennett has written a superb study of the tensions between religion and race among black Methodists and Catholics in New Orleans between 1880 and 1920. . . . [He] provides important comparisons of Methodist and Roman Catholic leaders and church members who either resisted or supported racial separatism and the effects of this growing separatism on their identity.
American Catholic Studies
Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans is a remarkable analysis of the complex and competing forces that shaped the south at the turn of the century. Bennett is certainly right in asserting that an examination of these moments of possibility, these opportunities for a social world that did not arise, intensify our awareness of the social order that did.
— Justin D. Poché
Journal of Southern History
This is an enormously intelligent book about the confrontations and negotiations within Methodist and Catholic churches over issues of race, focusing on the period between 1877 and 1920. . . . This book sets a high standard for analysis of the nineteenth-century evolution of religion and race, and scholars of American religion and history will find it an indispensable resource.
— Stephen W. Angell
American Catholic Studies
Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans is a remarkable analysis of the complex and competing forces that shaped the south at the turn of the century. Bennett is certainly right in asserting that an examination of these moments of possibility, these opportunities for a social world that did not arise, intensify our awareness of the social order that did.
— Justin D. Poche
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691121482
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/14/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.48 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

James B. Bennett is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Santa Clara University.
Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans


By James B. Bennett

Princeton University Press

Copyright © 2005 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12148-2


Chapter One

INTERRACIAL METHODISM IN NEW ORLEANS

REFLECTING ON THE STRUGGLE for racial equality in 1877, Methodist Episcopal bishop Gilbert Haven claimed that "nowhere in the land does the battle rage more hotly" than in New Orleans. The city's oppressive summer heat no doubt influenced Haven's choice of metaphor. A leading advocate of racial integration, Haven had spent the previous four years living and traveling throughout the South as the episcopal supervisor of his denomination's southern work. The bishop recognized that New Orleans's complex racial and religious history created a furnace in which "the battle of caste" and the fires of racial prejudice were "already raging ... hot, hotter, hottest." The political changes marking the end of Reconstruction threatened to fan the flames to new heights. Yet Haven remained optimistic that racial tensions in the Crescent City would not boil over. Surveying the accomplishments of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Haven predicted that in New Orleans "is the battle set" to overcome racial prejudice. M. E. church members in the Crescent City shared Haven's optimism. They believed their racially inclusive denomination would extend its influence to cool the "fires burning in the furnacepolitical" and thereby "mold the State" toward a broad acceptance of racial equality. The M. E. Church in New Orleans would be the soothing salve to heal the nation's racial blisters.

Haven's hope for New Orleans appears striking in hindsight. The M. E. bishop had thrown down the gauntlet for racial reconciliation in a seemingly peculiar place. Would the nation's racial anxieties be resolved in the South's largest, but often marginalized, city? Could the best hope for racial equality come from the city whose Jim Crow laws would lead to the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson ruling that sanctioned segregation for the next half century? Equally perplexing is the centrality Haven assigned to the Methodist Episcopal Church. Could a northern-based, biracial Protestant denomination transform a southern, Catholic, and increasingly segregated city? Haven's optimism seems misplaced, given the course of events that would make New Orleans among the most rigidly segregated cities in the early twentieth century.

But hindsight does not provide twenty-twenty vision, clichés aside. Historical perspective can inspire overconfidence, blurring rather than clarifying our comprehension of the past. What now appears inevitable was only one of several possibilities to those who lived the story. Retrospective emphasis on a steady and inexorable decline into segregation is more prescriptive than descriptive, since it ignores the prevailing hope that sustained much of New Orleans's black population in the face of a worsening racial climate. Like African Americans throughout the postbellum South, black New Orleanians used their churches to assert an alternate vision that challenged white supremacy. For no group was this more true than for the city's M. E. church members. The future was far from certain for these black Christians. M. E. church members believed their city's race relations remained undetermined, even as recent political developments created cause for concern. They also recognized that uncertainty meant the door of possibility remained ajar. The stories of church members in New Orleans open a window into these church-based racial struggles throughout the South, illuminating the extent to which the 1880s were discontinuous with both the antebellum racial order and the imposition of segregation in subsequent decades. During the decade after Reconstruction, black residents found greater affirmation and faced fewer constraints than they would later encounter. Attention to these intervening decades does not change the end result. Nonetheless, recognizing these competing visions reveals the extent to which Jim Crow was contested. Whites had to deliberately impose segregation. It did not emerge smoothly or inevitably as a pattern of religious or racial organization. The experiences of Methodists in New Orleans, like those of their more numerous Catholic counterparts, demonstrate that the question of segregation was neither quickly nor easily resolved in the nation's racially mixed Christian denominations. Our own disappointment with the outcome must not overshadow the very real hope that inspired the city's black church members, despite the nearly overwhelming obstacles they faced.

M. E. church members in New Orleans believed they were best positioned to realize the possibility of a new racial order in the 1880s. They argued that New Orleans offered the most promising locale to advance racial equality, pointing to gains during Reconstruction that included a liberal state constitution and integrated public schools, ongoing black political influence, and only recent "redemption" by white Democrats. The M. E. Church played an important role in fostering this favorable context. The northern-based denomination, with its rhetoric of racial equality, had arrived shortly after New Orleans came under Union control in 1862. While other denominations quickly succumbed to racial separation, the M. E. Church had sustained its biracial membership. Nowhere in the South was its racial commitment more clear than in Louisiana. As M. E. church members recalled these political and religious gains, many believed they had already glimpsed the transformation Bishop Haven had so boldly predicted for New Orleans. M. E. church members in New Orleans continued to fight for a racial equality that was rooted in their churches during the two generations after the end of Reconstruction. Their commitment to racially mixed religious institutions undermines both the contemporary and historical tendencies to associate churches with segregation rather than integration.

These church members privileged the role of the church in social as well as religious transformation. M. E. faithful in New Orleans argued throughout the 1880s that their churches embodied the best hope for building upon the promising foundation the city's religious and racial history provided. They were confident of the church's influence on the political order, believing that efforts to win social, economic, and political equality were inseparable from African-American religious struggles. The fight was the same, whether it concerned racially exclusive denominations or disfranchisement in the political sphere. Church members thus embraced Bishop Haven's contention that "the Church must mold the State." The M. E. Church would continue the project of Reconstruction that the federal government had abandoned. Racial interaction and an acceptance of African Americans as equals would increase as the denomination's biracial example inevitably spilled into the secular arena. Modeling this racial interaction was "alike necessary to the salvation of our Church and nation," and formed "the glorious privilege and duty" of those who lived and worshiped in New Orleans. To M. E. members, the future of the American nation, no less than the church, was at stake.

Black and white M. E. church members offered their own model of a shared religious affiliation that transcended racial differences as the best hope for the uncertainty of the 1880s. Racial inclusion stood at the very center of their M. E. religious identity. In the face of constant criticism and even abuse, theirs was not an easy task. Loyalty to their biracial denomination testified to their confidence in the promise it offered for transforming an increasingly hostile racial order in New Orleans and throughout the South. Black and white members alike defended their church's racial inclusiveness against the exclusionary practices of religious rivals. They believed that by following the M. E. example, black and white Americans could likewise emphasize a new shared identity grounded in religious and national commonalities. This vision of the future motivated those whose stories appear in the following pages to resist both a segregated church and a segregated society. This was the faith that M. E. church members in New Orleans lived and acted during the 1880s.

IN PRIVILEGING THE ROLE of their church, M. E. church members identified denominational affiliation as a critical component of the struggle for racial equality. Following Emancipation, choosing a new church connection marked one of the first assertions of freedom from white control. The choices were numerous. Within Methodism alone, the spectrum ranged from the conservative and mostly white Southern Methodist Church of their masters to the all-black "African" denominations such as the African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.), African Methodist Episcopal Zion (A.M.E. Zion), and Colored Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) churches. Debates among these Methodist factions concerned far more than contests for members and churches. Each tradition offered competing understandings of freedom and of strategies for advancing racial interests.

This range of denominational choices for black Methodists created a unique pattern in the American religious landscape. Baptists, who claimed the largest number of African-American members, had the widest range of congregations to choose from. But black Baptists were choosing among individual congregations rather than denominations advancing different strategies for racial equality. These independently organized Baptist congregations would not coalesce into formal denominations until the turn of the century. Absent altogether was a racially integrated Baptist association in the South. Within other Protestant denominations, the small number of black church members left them with few choices. Among Congregationalists, Episcopalians, and Presbyterians, only the latter had the occasional option of a racially separate denomination. Unlike Baptists and Methodists, the divisions in most of these and other Protestant traditions were geographic and theological, not racial. None claimed substantial numbers of black churches or clergy. Black Methodists thus faced the unique challenge of contending with rival Methodist organizations as well as with competing Baptist and, especially in New Orleans and Atlanta, Congregationalist churches. Still, no tradition approached the success of the M. E. Church in retaining black and white members in the same denomination. Well into the twentieth century, the M. E. Church was the only substantially biracial Protestant denomination.

Racial inclusiveness was the primary reason African Americans joined or rejoined the M. E. Church after Emancipation. In evaluating religious options, black Christians understood that choosing a religious identity encompassed far more than simply freedom of worship. Religious and racial identities were inextricably intertwined. Choosing a denominational affiliation involved articulating a particular understanding of freedom and racial identity. Debating these differing meanings of freedom and racial priorities stood at the center of denominational rivalries that endured past the turn of the century. Those who joined the M. E. Church emphasized racial equality above all else, pointing to the "anti-caste" appeal that was the centerpiece of M. E. mission work in the South. Black members saw a denomination that strove, albeit imperfectly, to model the racial inclusiveness they envisioned for all of society. White workers no less than black converts recognized that "the equality of relations enjoyed by black and white was the rallying cry which gathered the people to us." Although the recently arrived Congregationalists proclaimed a similarly inclusive message, the large network of existing black Methodist preachers and churches gave the M. E. Church a distinct advantage in building a biracial denomination in the postbellum South.

M. E. church members demonstrated their commitment to a biracial religious identity in their willingness to suffer for their denominational affiliation. Both black and white members endured widespread hostility for their church membership. Remaining in the M. E. Church was not easy in the face of this antagonism. But denominational loyalty testified to church members' confidence that their example offered the best hope for improving the nation's race relations. The suffering of black M. E. church members was by no means unique; it resulted from racial as much as religious identity. Nor was oppression limited to Louisiana. Throughout the South, African Americans of all religious persuasions endured threats and actual harm, as did many with no religious affiliation. Nonetheless, belonging to a biracial denomination only increased vulnerability. M. E. church members experienced their oppression through this dual lens of religious and racial identity, in which one was inseparable from the other. As an M. E. leader in neighboring Mississippi explained, membership in the M. E. Church entailed "repeated efforts all over the land to alienate us from it by force and proscription on the one hand and persuasion on the other."

Efforts to alienate black M. E. church members "by force and proscription" referred primarily to the activities of white antagonists. The religious as well as the racial identity of black members threatened white southerners. Much of the opposition came from Southern Methodists, who had separated from the M. E. Church over the issue of slavery in 1844. Because Southerners considered the division between northern and southern Methodism as much about geography as ideology, they resented the postbellum incursions of the M. E. Church into their territory. Southern Methodists did not oppose a Methodist identity for former slaves. Rather, they argued that Methodism should be racially separated. The southern ideal was two American Methodist denominations, one white and one black. Race would replace geography as the criterion for denominational affiliation. Southern Methodists had already enacted this separation within their own ranks in 1870, creating the Colored Methodist Episcopal (C.M.E.) Church for the few African Americans who had remained in the Southern Methodist Church. The desire for separate denominations was typical of southern white evangelicals; Southern Methodist racial anxieties were hardly distinctive. Presbyterians, both the Southern and Cumberland branches, created separate denominations for their black members, while Baptists segregated almost immediately after Emancipation, if they had not already done so. Nor was opposition to the M. E. Church limited to those concerned about Methodist geography or politics. To southern whites, participation in racially mixed religious institutions formed yet another example of black citizens exceeding acceptable limits. These challenges to white supremacy resulted in assaults to remind black Southerners of their proper place: away from whites.

White hostility took many forms, some disastrous, others deadly. Arson abounded, as report after report filtered into New Orleans that "another of our churches has been burned in the South by some wicked incendiary." More troubling was the risk of death under which black M. E. leaders labored. Two years after the end of Reconstruction, the front page of the M. E. newspaper in New Orleans listed acts of violence carried out against its ministers in the South, noting the murdered clergymen "were all killed because they were laborers in the Methodist Episcopal Church." In Ouchita Parish, Louisiana, two masked men shot Primus Johnson, an M. E. minister, and Eaton Lockwood, a "colored Republican," in October 1876. African Americans in New Orleans knew the murders did not constitute random acts of violence but rather reflected the racial threat that the men's religious and political affiliation represented: "These men were shot because they were leaders among the colored people and because they were Republicans." In this triad of identities-black, Republican, and of a biracial denomination-one characteristic often implied the others. Just one of these traits was enough to provoke whites to hostility.

Other efforts to discourage M. E. loyalty were less deadly but even more widespread. Southern Methodists' tactics reflected not only disgust with M. E. racial policies but also the recognition that black M. E. church members were central to the M. E. establishing a new strength and presence in the postbellum South. This combination of racial and polity concerns led Southern Methodists to agitate for their vision of racially homogenous denominations. Their goal was "the organization of a great Episcopal Methodist Colored Church in the South" along the lines of the C.M.E. they had created in 1870. In the interim, Southern Methodists worked to steer black church members away from the M. E. Church and into any of the racially separate African or Colored Methodist denominations. Church members in New Orleans were well aware of the "constant talk in Southern Methodist papers about the colored people going to themselves, as being the best thing for them and all." The opposition took its toll. In response to a call to build more churches, one black M. E. minister complained of the difficulty, with "Southern Methodists all the time talking to the members and telling them they are in the wrong church."

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans by James B. Bennett Copyright © 2005 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix
Acknowledgments xi
Introduction 1
CHAPTER 1. Interracial Methodism in New Orleans 12
CHAPTER 2. Instituting Interracial Methodism 42
CHAPTER 3. The Decline of Interracial Methodism 71
CHAPTER 4. Renegotiating Black Methodist Identity 101
CHAPTER 5. Interracial Catholicism in New Orleans 136
CHAPTER 6. The Decline of Interracial Catholicism 162
CHAPTER 7. Renegotiating Black Catholic Identity 193
EPILOGUE. Religion and Baseball in New Orleans 229
Abbreviations 237
Notes 239
Index 299

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)