Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York's Early Republic Congregations

Four Steeples over the City Streets: Religion and Society in New York's Early Republic Congregations

by Kyle T. Bulthuis


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Tells the diverse story of four congregations in New York City as they navigated the social and political changes of the late eighteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries.

In the fifty years after the Constitution was signed in 1787, New York City grew from a port town of 30,000 to a metropolis of over half a million residents. This rapid development transformed a once tightknit community and its religious experience. Including four churches belonging in various forms to the Church of England, that in some form still thrive today. Rapid urban and social change connected these believers in unity in the late colonial era. As the city grew larger, more impersonal, and socially divided, churches reformed around race and class-based neighborhoods.

In Four Steeples over the City Streets, Kyle T. Bulthuis examines the intertwining of these four famous institutions—Trinity Episcopal, John Street Methodist, Mother Zion African Methodist, and St. Philip’s (African) Episcopal—to uncover the lived experience of these historical subjects, and just how religious experience and social change connected in the dynamic setting of early Republic New York.

Drawing on a wide range of sources including congregational records and the unique histories of some of the churches leaders, Four Steeples over the City Streets reveals how these city churches responded to these transformations from colonial times to the mid-nineteenth century. Bulthuis also adds new dynamics to the stories of well-known New Yorkers such as John Jay, James Harper, and Sojourner Truth. More importantly, Four Steeples over the City Streets connects issues of race, class, and gender, urban studies, and religious experience, revealing how the city shaped these churches, and how their respective religious traditions shaped the way they reacted to the city.

This book is a critical addition to the study and history of African American activism and life in the ever-changing metropolis of New York City.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479831340
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 04/01/2017
Series: Early American Places Series , #15
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Kyle T. Bulthuis is Assistant Professor of History at Utah State University.

Table of Contents


Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: The Pursuit of Religious, Racial, and Social Unity in an Early Republic Metropolis 1

1 The Foundations of Religious Establishment: The Colonial Era 13

2 Religious Establishment Challenged, Destroyed, and Re-formed: The Revolutionary Era 30

3 Creating Merchant Churches: The 1790s 48

4 Stepping Up and Out: White Women in the Church, 1800–1820 75

5 Gendering Race in the Church: Black Male Benevolence, 1800–1820 97

6 Preacher Power: Congregational Political Strugglesas Social Conflicts, 1810–1830 120

7 Neighborly Refinement and Withdrawal: 1820–1840 146

8 Reaping the Whirlwind: Immigration and Riot, 1830–1850 170

Conclusion. Elusive Unity: City Churches in a Romantic Age, after 1840 196

Notes 207

Bibliography 243

Index 263

About the Author 271

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