That churches are one of the most important cornerstones of black political organization is a commonplace. In this history of African American Protestantism and American politics at the end of the Civil War, Nicole Myers Turner challenges the idea of black churches as having always been politically engaged. Using local archives, church and convention minutes, and innovative Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping, Turner reveals how freedpeople in Virginia adapted strategies for pursuing the freedom of their souls to worship as they saw fit—and to participate in society completely in the evolving landscape of emancipation.
Freedpeople, for both evangelical and electoral reasons, were well aware of the significance of the physical territory they occupied, and they sought to organize the geographies that they could in favor of their religious and political agendas at the outset of Reconstruction. As emancipation included opportunities to purchase properties, establish black families, and reconfigure gender roles, the ministry became predominantly male, a development that affected not only discourses around family life but also the political project of crafting, defining, and teaching freedom. After freedmen obtained the right to vote, an array of black-controlled institutions increasingly became centers for political organizing on the basis of networks that mirrored those established earlier by church associations.
FIGURE 5.2 “Virginia—the Readjuster State Convention at Richmond—Mr. Massey Moving to Make Unanimous Nomination of Col. Wm. E. Cameron for Governor June 3d—From Sketch by Walter Golfer—See Page 287.” Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, 25 June 1881. The illustrator depicted the attendees as better dressed and of higher status than the newspaper accounts indicated. Courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
MAP 5.3 Map of 1881 gubernatorial election results. An interactive version of this map can be found in the Fulcrum edition. Sources: ICPSR; United States Historical Election Returns, 1824–1968 [computer file]; church data gathered from convention minutes.
This site requires cookies to function correctly.