Cover: Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories, from Harvard University PressCover: Setting Down the Sacred Past in HARDCOVER

Setting Down the Sacred Past

African-American Race Histories

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$41.00 • £35.95 • €37.95

ISBN 9780674050792

Publication Date: 04/30/2010


352 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

Belknap Press


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Maffly-Kipp resists simpler analyses that would cast these race histories in unapologetic ‘heroic’ mode or cram them all into the model of ‘liberatory’ texts or (going the opposite direction) decry their tendency to follow European and Protestant models of historical narrative. Instead, she gives a rich and satisfying account of texts in which ‘race’ was only a partial unifier… [An] impressive feat of intellectual history and literary recovery.—Paul Harvey, Books & Culture

Maffly-Kipp draws on lectures, sermons, plays, poetry, and other works of several little-known writers from the American Revolution and WWI that reflect on how the black community in the U.S. has attempted to record and analyze the meaning of the African diasporic experience. She explores the works of free blacks during slavery as they attempted to write their own histories and examine their circumstances as distinct and similar to that of slaves. Among those she examines: Lorenzo Dow Blackson, a self-educated African American Methodist preacher; Jacob Oson, a teacher at an African American school in New Haven, Connecticut, in the 1800s; and George Washington Williams, who in the late 1800s attempted to write the history of the African race. These writers add valuable perspective to the works of better-known black authors and a full perspective on African American history.—Vanessa Bush, Booklist

A challenging analysis of how African Americans understood themselves, challenging because it alters so much of what we take for granted. A deeply human book.—David Hall, Harvard University

A seminal work that is destined to become a classic in the field…it is the kind of work that people will be reading…thirty years from now.—Paul Harvey, author of Freedom’s Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South, from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era

Maffly-Kipp traces, with great care and originality, the development of African-American collective history and memory from the Revolution into the early twentieth century. She offers a profound reflection on how historical consciousness is formed.—Leigh E. Schmidt, Harvard University

This remarkable piece of historical writing allows us to eavesdrop on discussions of fundamental importance to African Americans through the course of the long nineteenth century about the nature of blackness, about divine destiny in history, about the emotional and historical connections between Africa and black America, and about the past as a guide to the future.—Jon Sensbach, author of Rebecca’s Revival: Creating Black Christianity in the Atlantic World

Laurie Maffly-Kipp’s work reveals the rich theological imaginations of vernacular religious thinkers who offered their readers bold histories of the world and religious interpretations of African American peoplehood. A major contribution to the field of African American religious history.—Judith Weisenfeld, Princeton University

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