Lecture Notes From Summer Institutes

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Dr. John Boles—Rice University


Session I

Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind

  • Religion in the South

    • To the extent that the people tried to abstract their lives, they did it through religion up to 1900

    • To understand many major events before 1900, religion is key

    • Old text book by Hofstadter/(xxxxx) eliminated religion in the South

    • Edward (xxx) taught anthropology

      • Book about religion in Kentucky from 1919 characterized southerners as primitives

    • Wrote his dissertation on Southern religion in the age of Jefferson

      • The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins of the Southern Evangelical Mind (1972)

    • Great Awakening is mischarachterized

      • Why did it not happen in the South?

      • Mostly from Maryland north from 1730-1755

    • A revival assumes something happened before but that was not true

      • If not a network of churches and ministers

      • If not a set of assumptions of how God works in history

      • Society going through significant stress and change

    • These conditions existed in 1720s in New England but not is South

    • Whitfield did not have the impact in the South as he did in the North

    • Beginning in 1740s a small Presbyterian revival began in Virginia

      • Samuel Davies was a gifted Presbyterian minister

      • Group of farmers in Hanover County north of Richmond felt a need in their rural world for a church and community

      • William Robinson came from Pennsylvania

      • By 1750s there was a strong Presbyterian

    • In 1754 two separate Baptists went to Great (xxxxxxxpoopapa)

    • Then went to North and South Carolina, then Virginia

    • Daniel Marshall and Stearns

    • Separate Baptists began a big movement who were persecuted

      • Eventually they bonded with anti

    • 1770s a Methodist movement began in Virgina

      • itinerant preachers made it

    • 1785 a real revival began to form around these three movements after the war but it was limited by the hard work of

      • migration

      • loss of slaves

      • new constitutions

      • reworking infrastructure

      • reinventing economy and agriculture

    • These crises were compounded by the political problems in France

      • Anti-clerical and deistic component created fear factor

    • By mid-1790s

    • Declension

      • Church membership falling and society in turmoil

      • People were bred into total faith in God’s plan

        • God knows and plans everything

      • Dismal swamp

        • God created miasmic gasses to come up from swamps to limit people from getting too much air and getting giddy

      • Religious decline was causing people to suffer God’s punishment and they slowly decided to do something in response to God’s mention to stop worrying about migration and constitutions

      • Fast days

      • Jonathan Edwards was the first modern American and the last medieval American – we don’t get him – same thing when 2005 eyes read 1805 (Laurel Thacher Ulrich gave great example in Midwife’s Tale of getting mental eye tuned to reading)

    • McGrady went from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and then Kentucky

      • Organized three churches to his theology of declension in 1800

        • Conviced people to pray for intervention of God to help them overcome

        • Lisle brothers came, on Preb., one Methodist, who infused emotion into the revival and created an electric shockwave in church, which evolved into hundreds of people expecting to see something in summer of 1801

        • Word spread beyond Kentucky to Tennessee and Virginia

    • 1801-02: great revival underway in the South

      • rural crowds in South never saw so many people: a miracle

      • Cambridge revival was 8-10 thousand people

      • Waves of revivals interpreted as God’s intervention

      • Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists begin dominating South

        • Presbyterians were still uneasy with emotion and uneducated ministers and declined but still

        • TJ thought Unitarianism would dominate in 1780s

      • Emotive conversion, not intellectual, social or political concerns, became the litmus test for successful, acceptable religion

        • Heartfelt, pietistic, evangelical

        • Planters restricted narrowly the kinds of topics churches could discuss

        • Northern churches and religious observance led to social critiques and anti-slavery perspectives

        • Southern churches defended slavery as a Providential way for Africans to become Christian

          • Slavery is affirmed in the Bible because Jesus and Paul did not attack slavery

          • Southern ministers became proponents of secession as a Providential moment – somehow evolved from the earlier avoidance of political issues

Session II

Slavery in the Old South

  • High school teacher Mr. Smith (drove the bus too)

    • 1619: House of Burgesses, women, slavery

  • Things evolve over time, nothing’s predetermined or finite

    • Hold on to idea of contingency

      • Few Americans in 1850 believed there would be a civil war

  • Slavery existed in much of Europe but British did not know it well

    • They thought it was backward and maybe papist

    • New England turned out different

      • Some Virginians thought it might be like what the Spanish encountered in Mexico

    • Tobacco and John Rolfe began to define the economy after 1611/14

      • Reliant on indentured servants

      • The Virginia and Maryland tobacco systems were immediately oriented on indentured servants, not slaves

        • Only 30 slaves in Virginia, slaves and blacks were separate categories in the census – servant was the term used

        • 1640s: more blacks, who were indentured servants get treated more as slaves

          • tithes were required for black males and females

          • black and white workers were left indistinguishable

  • by 1660s there were more slave imports and blacks treated like slaves

    • new laws like “A black cannot own a Christian slave.”

    • 1670s: white indentured servants becomes minimal

      • plague, end of population boom, and fire of London create less migratory labor from England

      • ever increasing need for white indentured servants

      • blacks were less desirable

        • foreign and expensive

      • planters took less capable whites and offered less time to serve

      • monopoly who brought slaves to the new world ended in 1690s

      • by 1750s, the Chesapeake was a slave society

        • slaves were directly from Africa

        • Rice brought South Carolina prosperity, due to slaves

          • By 1708 blacks outnumber whites in SC

        • American South was the only slave region where there was net population growth from indigenous slave increase

          • After 1715, black women began to adopt English patterns of nursing shorter amounts of time, which increased birth rate, also better food supply, and higher rate of survival, and more men hoping for reproduction – having children change people

          • Africans tried to recover their culture when they had children – less rebellious workforce

      • Development of slave culture grew from family growth

        • Music and quilts and coping mechanisms grew

    • 1750s: plantations were small in most of the South – more democratic

      • South Carolina and Georgia were transformed by slaves from Senegalia who were well-versed in such fields for rice

        • Large workforces were needed

          • Whites suffered from such work – fevers

          • Blacks could survive malaria

            • Whites saw Providence in blacks working their fields

    • Cotton was limited because of getting green seed cotton deseeded

      • Whitney’s cotton gin helped make deseeding easy

      • Cotton transformed demand for slavery in picking

    • Corn became a complimentary crop to cotton so that they could make maximal use of labor: effectively made corn a free crop to grow

      • 1860: more corn was planted than any other crop, even in Mississippi

      • corn was important to the long-range economy of the South

  • myths of the South included idea that most whites were slaveowners

    • rate of slave ownership declined from 1820 to 1860

      • 1860: 25% of whites owned slaves

        • slaves became more expensive and only the richest could afford slaves, so they were consolidated into larger farms

      • most slave owners owned only one or two domestic slaves

      • of the 25%, only 12% owned more than 20 slaves (litmus of a plantation is problematic)

      • only 1/8 of slaveowners were planters

      • only about 350 plantations had more than 250 slaves

      • most slaves lived on large plantations

        • 9 farms of fewer than 10 slaves would not add up to the number on a plantation

      • Owner (maybe some blacks in Louisiana)

        • Overseer (mostly white but sometimes black)

          • Drivers (could be black)

            • Laborers

            • Myth that slaves only did menial work

      • About 20% of Southern cities were blacks

        • Blacks often dominated certain trades like bricks or iron

        • Many blacks were skilled and conflict emerged with white artisans and even skilled free blacks

      • Most slaves lived comparably with poor whites

    • Slaves were not passive victims

      • They made the most of their modest means to

      • Slaves made individual statements with hair

      • Slaves like Peter might emerge in a city in the South

      • Most black free blacks who owned slaves owned family members but some owned black slaves as economic units

      • 1690 law eliminated ability of free blacks to own white servants

      • folk culture became biracial, a blending of cultures

        • whereas Germans brought brass band music to the Mississippi, Africans brought the banjar

        • by 1930 white folk music was defined by the banjo and black music was symbolized by the cornet

      • C. Vann Woodward wrote an essay in 1953 about the universalism of the Southern experience: defeat, poverty, and failure, themes that people worldwide can relate to better than the overwhelming success of the US as a whole, so Southern history is more popular abroad than it is in the US

  • racism is like gravity, not obvious but everpresent

Session III

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