For 4 million slaves, emancipation was a liberation and
resurrection story of biblical proportion, both the clearest
example of God's intervention in human history and a sign of the
end of days. In this book, Matthew Harper demonstrates how black
southerners' theology, in particular their understanding of the end
times, influenced nearly every major economic and political
decision they made in the aftermath of emancipation. From
considering what demands to make in early Reconstruction to
deciding whether or not to migrate west, African American
Protestants consistently inserted themselves into biblical
narratives as a way of seeing the importance of their own struggle
in God's greater plan for humanity. Phrases like "jubilee," "Zion,"
"valley of dry bones," and the "New Jerusalem" in black-authored
political documents invoked different stories from the Bible to
argue for different political strategies.
This study offers new ways of understanding the intersections
between black political and religious thought of this era. Until
now, scholarship on black religion has not highlighted how
pervasive or contested these beliefs were. This narrative, however,
tracks how these ideas governed particular political moments as
African Americans sought to define and defend their freedom in the
forty years following emancipation.