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Passionately Human, No Less Divine:
Religion and Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952
Wallace D. Best

Winner of the 2006 Illinois State Historical Society Award in Publications

Paperback | 2007 | $38.95 | £32.95 | ISBN: 9780691133751
272 pp. | 6 x 9 | 12 halftones. 3 line illus. 3 tables.
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The Great Migration was the most significant event in black life since emancipation and Reconstruction. Passionately Human, No Less Divine analyzes the various ways black southerners transformed African American religion in Chicago during their Great Migration northward. A work of religious, urban, and social history, it is the first book-length analysis of the new religious practices and traditions in Chicago that were stimulated by migration and urbanization.

The book illustrates how the migration launched a new sacred order among blacks in the city that reflected aspects of both Southern black religion and modern city life. This new sacred order was also largely female as African American women constituted more than 70 percent of the membership in most black Protestant churches.

Ultimately, Wallace Best demonstrates how black southerners imparted a folk religious sensibility to Chicago's black churches. In doing so, they ironically recast conceptions of modern, urban African American religion in terms that signified the rural past. In the same way that working class cultural idioms such as jazz and the blues emerged in the secular arena as a means to represent black modernity, he says, African American religion in Chicago, with its negotiation between the past, the present, rural and urban, revealed African American religion in modern form.


"Passionately Human, No Less Divine is both meticulously researched and carefully written. Wallace Best has performed a thorough investigation of migration-era black churches that will benefit anyone interested in the shape of African-American religion and culture since."--Josef Sorett, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"[A] study brimming with insights."--Mark Noll, Christian Century

"[This book] makes an important contribution to the study of African American religion in Chicago during the Great Migration. . . . [It is a] pivotal text that will help scholars of American Religion and African American Religion to rethink the assumptions that Cayton's and Drake's as well as a host of other sociologists like W.E.B. Dubois, have placed upon our analysis of the African American Religious experience."--Anthea D. Butler, Church History

"Best's work opens the way for further research into the complexities of, not only African American religion, but also other religious traditions that have likewise suffered from historically inaccurate and ideologically suspect scholarly analyses. Scholars interested in urban and African American religion will find this text immensely rewarding. And to those interested in the effect that the southern religious ethos has had on the broader spectrum of American religion, this text is essential reading."--Adam Stewart, University of Waterloo

"This work makes a substantial and insightful contribution to the study of African-American Christianity and culture and, in particular, the role of the poor in the reconceptualisation of black faith."--Graham Duncan, Historiae Ecclesiasticae


"This is a very significant contribution to the field. Best creates a convincing revision of the older interpretation of religion and migration in Chicago."--Albert J. Raboteau, Princeton University

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Table of Contents:

Abbreviations ix
Figures xi
Tables xiii
Preface xv
Acknowledgments xix
Introduction 1
Chapter One: "Mecca of the Migrant Mob" 13
Chapter Two: The South in the City 35
Chapter Three: Southern Migrants and the New Sacred Order 71
Chapter Four: The Frenzy,the Preacher,and the Music 94
Chapter Five: The Chicago African Methodist Episcopal Church in Crisis 118
Chapter Six: A Woman's Work, an Urban World 147
Conclusion i81
Epilogue 191
Notes 195
Index 239

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    File created: 3/4/2017

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