Ought we kiss the hand that smites us? : Black Protestants in the age of lynching, 1890-1919.
The decades-long phenomenon of racialized lynching in the United States took thousands of lives, but beyond the death toll, it also created a culture of terror in Black communities. These communities powerfully resisted this culture, as human communities are wont to do. This dissertation intervenes in a historiography where consideration of religion is sparse, especially the consideration of Black religiosity. Thus, this dissertation focuses particularly on Black Protestant communities, whose Christianity shaped the language and mobilization of their resistance to a culture of terror and death. In asking whether Black Protestant communities resisted the violent regime of racialized lynching, this dissertation answers with a resounding “Yes!” and explicates the categories of such resistance. I offer four categories of resistance emerging from Black Protestant communities and leaders ranging from seemingly quietist calls for prayer to calls from the pulpit for armed self-defense. As I demonstrate, the lynching era catalyzed political and theological creativity rather than stifling it. The diverse responses from written sources as disparate as poetry, sermons, and novels reveal that Black Protestant leaders and laypeople sifted their lives through the sieve of their faith and as a result of the confluence of theological, social and political influences, counseled those around them to resist lynching in meaningful and consistent ways.