Liberals in the Old South: A Progressive Path Not Taken
Thursday, July 5
Join author John Allen Macaulay for a book reading and lecture in the Marc Jacobs Reading Room on Thursday, July 5 at 6:00 pm.
Macaulay, author of Unitarianism in the Antebellum South: The Other Invisible Invisible Institution, will present a lecture entitled “Liberals in the Old South: A Progressive Path Not Taken.” Macaulay will explore Unitarianism in the post-Civil War South and the denomination’s positions as an influential religious movement in the early history of the region.
Macaulay posits that just beneath the surface of organized religion in the South was an “invisible institution” not unlike Franklin Frazier’s Black Church, a nebulous network of liberal faith that represented a sustained and continued strand of Enlightenment religious rationalism alongside and within an increasingly evangelical culture. He shows that there were in fact two invisible religious institutions in the antebellum South, one in the slave quarters and the other in the urban landscape of southern towns. Whereas slave preachers rediscovered in music and bodily movement and in themes of suffering a vibrant Christian community, Unitarians witnessed the simple spiritual truth that reason and belief are one unified whole. In offering this fresh argument, Macaulay has chipped away at stereotypes of the mid-19th-century South as unreservedly “evangelical” and contributed greatly to historians’ understanding of the diversity and complexity in southern religion.
John Allen Macaulay is an independent scholar educated at Erskine College, Duke University Divinity School, and the University of South Carolina.