"Confession is good for the soul. Herein, it's also revealing of history and historiography. These autobiographical reflections remind us, too, how much the personal informs scholarship. We all might fess up to that fact, as these good people do, and offer more honest reflections of ourselves and the history we write."
—Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
"For any devotee of the field, these rare peeks into the minds and souls of respected colleagues are a treat indeed."
—Journal of Southern History
Invoking the strong ties they sense between the courses of their lives and their careers, the sixteen historians of religion who have contributed to Autobiographical Reflections on Southern Religious History share their thoughts and motivations. In these highly personal essays, both pioneering and promising young scholars discuss their work and interests as they recall how the circumstances of their upbringing and education steered them toward religious history. They tell of their own time and place and of their growing awareness of how religion ties into larger social issues: gender, class, and, most notably, race. Indeed, one essay begins, "I was asked to write about why I came to study religion in the South. It was then I realized that it was because my grandfather had been lynched."
Lutheran, Jewish, Catholic, Methodist, and Episcopal viewpoints are represented as, of course, are Baptist. Some contributors have stood in the pulpit; others at least commenced their higher education with that aim. While some contributors were born and reared, and now work in the Bible Belt, others are outsiders--physically, philosophically, or both. Some came from intellectual traditions; others were the first in their family to attend college.
Despite their common interest in its history, southern religion is anything but an intellectual abstraction for the contributors to this book. It is a potent force, and here sixteen men and women offer themselves as proof of its power to shape lives.