The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998 Page: 430
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
life and culture, Eugene D. Genovese and Lawrence W. Levine have
each focused on what AlbertJ. Raboteau identified as the "invisible insti-
tution" of slave religion, explaining the importance of religion to blacks
as a source of strength and community, but their emphasis on the secre-
tive worship in brush arbors obscures the fact that "biracial [church]
attendance .., was the norm in the rural South."2 The experience would
differ somewhat in the older urban centers of the Old South where
there were larger numbers of free blacks than in Houston, but even
when cities such as Charleston, Richmond, and Savannah had black con-
gregations worshiping at a different time or in separate houses from
whites, they still were, for the most part, under white supervision and did
not experience the growth of fully independent black churches.
In examining the emigration of blacks from biracial churches, histo-
rians have tended to gravitate to two explanations, some choosing to
emphasize "push" factors of whites who forced blacks out of churches
soon after the war while others stress the "pull" of black agency and
desires for an independence they were not allowed in white-dominated
antebellum churches. Some of this disparity perhaps centers around
the sources used, because individual church and regional association
records reveal many of the racial assumptions of religious whites and
their professions of the spiritual, but not the political, economic, or
social equality of blacks. Such remarks have led historians to surmise
that the Presbyterians as early as 1865 and the Southern Methodists in
1866 were working to establish separate institutions in order to push
blacks away to a safer social distance." Other historians, however, have
utilized slave narratives and cultural interpretations of the slaves' expe-
riences of religion to focus on the black desires for separate institu-
tions, arguing that "the driving force in the segregation of the south-
ern churches was not white manipulation but, rather, decisive action
by the blacks."4
2 "Bert Luster" in T. Lindsay Baker and Julie P. Baker (eds.), Tall Freedom Crzed Out Memories of
Texas Slave Life (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1997), 52; Eugene D. Genovese,
Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made (New York: Pantheon, 1974); Lawrence W. Levine,
Black Culture and Black Consciousness: Afro-American Folk Thought front Slavery to Freedom (New York-
Oxford University Press, 1977); Albert J. Raboteau, Slave Religion: The "Invisble Instztution" in the
Antebellum South (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978); second quotation from John B.
Boles, "Introduction" to Boles (ed.), Masters and Slaves in the House of the Lord, 2.
Barley, "The Post-Civil War Racial Separations in Southern Protestantism," 453-473; Rufus B.
Spain, At Ease in Zion: A Social History of Southern Baptsts, 1865-19oo (Nashville: Vanderbilt
University Press, 1961), 44-67.
S4 Katherine L. Dvorak, "After Apocalypse, Moses" in Boles (ed.), Masters and Slaves in the House of
the Lord, 173. Dvorak also argues that "in the chaos of ambivalent white pressures, denomination-
al competition, and social confusion of the period, black initiative was decisive in the emergence
of a pattern of racial separation in the southern churches." See Katherine L. Dvorak, An Afrzcan
American Exodus- The Segregation of the Southern Churches (Brooklyn, N Y.. Carlson, 1991), 2.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998, periodical, 1998; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/m1/513/: accessed April 30, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.