Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era

In This Review

Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War Through the Civil Rights Era

By Paul Harvey
University of North Carolina Press, 2005
360 pp. $34.95
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At a time when politicians and policymakers are paying increased attention to religion, Harvey's survey of both white and black Christianity through post-Civil War history is an excellent introduction to the complicated mix of politics and religion that took shape in the Jim Crow years. Although conservative white Christian leaders were generally either silent or segregationist, Harvey argues that popular, high-power religion played a significant role in the rapid disintegration of racial hierarchies. Segregation was often less rigid in the steamy revival tents of the camp meeting; Pentecostal preaching in particular easily crossed back and forth across the racial divide. "Niggers and crackers be shouting everywhere together," noted one observer of a "holy roller" meeting. Elvis Presley was one of the "crackers" who attended these interracial events in the still-segregated South. The sense of common humanity and culture that young people like Presley felt as a result of these experiences was, Harvey claims, part of the reason why the walls of Jim Crow, seemingly so solid and imposing, would fall so completely, so quickly, and with relatively little bloodshed when Martin Luther King, Jr., and his followers blew Joshua's horn in the days of jubilee.