Publication Date

March 2020




UNC Press


In Soul Liberty: The Evolution of Black Religious Politics in Postemancipation Virginia, Yale religious studies professor Nicole Meyers Turner designates the black church as the birthplace of black political activity. Turner utilizes a wealth of denominational meeting minutes, government documents and newspaper articles to craft a well-researched religious history. This history is grounded in the actions of black Virginian churchgoers’ quest to achieve a multifaceted form of freedom and autonomy which Turner dubs, ‘soul liberty.’ Religious institutions, the black Baptist churches of Virginia in particular, functioned as safe spaces for communal, social, and political exploration. Baptist conventions featured committees on foreign affairs, missions, and education. A few of the primary objectives of said conventions were to engage in racial uplift, establish a sense of communal identity, and of utmost importance, to evidence black mens’ capacity for political participation at the national, state and local levels.