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The story of a black day-laborer called Sam Hose killing his white employer in a workplace dispute ended in a lynching of enormous religious significance. For many deeply-religious communities in the Jim Crow South, killing those like Sam Hose restored balance to a moral cosmos upended by a heinous crime. A religious intensity in the mood and morality of segregation surpassed law, and in times of social crisis could justify illegal white violence - even to the extreme act of lynching. In At the Altar of Lynching, distinguished historian Donald G. Mathews offers a new interpretation of the murder of Sam Hose, which places the religious culture of the evangelical South at its center. He carefully considers how mainline Protestants, including women, not only in many instances came to support or accept lynching, but gave the act religious meaning and justification.Read more
- Highlights the cultural significance and effects of religion on race in the Jim Crow South
- Frames the lynching of Sam Hose as a religious and moral story, telling it in vivid detail
- Considers the phrase 'lynching is religion!' and its meaning in this particular historical and social context
Reviews & endorsements
'With stunning research and uncompromising ethical vision, Donald G. Mathews shows why he is without peer in the history of religions. Every American should read this book, and learn how societies organize their racial superiority by religious means. Lynching is not a minor act conducted by marginal people. Lynching is an American institution used to reiterate the moral order of white supremacy.' Kathryn Lofton, Yale University, ConnecticutSee more reviews
'Through this story, Donald G. Mathews masterfully explores the many political, social, and emotional forces that supported white racism and fuelled racial violence in the American South. More importantly, Mathews, a preeminent scholar of southern religion, illuminates the spiritual meaning of this violence. He has written a book that is, at once, erudite and gripping.' Amy Louise Wood, author of Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in the South
'This is the book on southern lynching I’ve been waiting for. Through an analysis of one of the most notorious lynchings in the history of the South, Mathews shifts our understandings by revealing how much lynching was bound up - for both whites and blacks - with religious ideas of expiation, crucifixion, and sacrifice.' Michael Trotti, Ithaca College, New York
'This book presents a searing and deeply personal story that probes the enduring legacies of Christian fervor and racial injustice in US History. Mathews does not look away in the face of racial violence, and neither should we.' Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Washington University, St. Louis
'Mathews has conducted a huge amount of primary source research, particularly in newspaper accounts and selected archival sources from the era, but he’s also able to draw on this newer secondary scholarship. The result is that most wonderful of things, a provocative and powerful interpretation, drawing from religious studies theories and scholarship, that is also completely grounded in the empirical realities of the time and place of the incident. That is, this is a beautiful and memorable blend of religious studies and history, with a powerfully original interpretation well-supported with empirical fact and astonishingly powerful prose.' Paul Harvey, Reading Religion
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- Date Published: September 2017
- format: Paperback
- isbn: 9781316633984
- length: 354 pages
- dimensions: 229 x 154 x 20 mm
- weight: 0.5kg
- availability: In stock
Table of Contents
1. Before the burning: Southern mastery
2. Sex, danger, and religion: facing a 'savage fury'
3. Kindling the fire
4. Burning Sam Hose
5. Ashes: rape and history
6. Ashes: the blind and sighted
7. At the altar: crucifixion.
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