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[Detail] Training School for Wives and Mothers, Baton Gouge, La. 1888.


The Church in the Southern Black Community, 1780-1925, documents the important role of religion in a study of African American history. Churches supported the free black community, helped ameliorate the effects of slavery, and became an instrument bent on the destruction of the “peculiar institution” throughout the pre-Civil War era. Religious communities played an important role during Reconstruction and were in the forefront in challenging Jim Crow.

The Church in the Southern Black Community is a collection of 100 documents, primarily books, pamphlets, journal articles, and slave narratives from the Academic Affairs Library of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Many of the books in the collection were written by ministers who chronicled the history of the African Methodist Episcopal and Baptist churches in the South, usually with biographical sketches of leading church members and itinerant preachers. Sources also deal with mission work in Africa. The collection also includes early twentieth-century assessments by black scholars on the important role of African American religious communities in American history and society.

The collection provides an opportunity to examine social and political history through documents relating to the influence of African American religious communities in the late eighteenth through the early twentieth centuries. The documents assist in exploring several epochs in United States history from the Revolutionary era through the emergence of modern America in the early twentieth century. A Special Presentation, “An Introduction to the Church in the Southern Black Community,” provides a brief overview of the influence of the church across these periods.