The Material Culture of Religion
This chapter probes how Delta blacks developed a new material culture of religious experience. It illuminates how the purchase and display of certain types of consumer goods became crucial elements of new ideas about respectability, domesticity, and the ‘black Christian home.’ Congregants purchased staid clothes, lithographs of church leaders, and religious wall‐hangings to model self‐restraint and racial pride; preachers symbolized progress by purchasing drapes, pipe organs, and electric chandeliers for their churches. Central to these new consumer and spiritual practices was the shifting association between politics, black women, and religion. As disfranchisement expelled all blacks from the politics, denominational churches increasingly excluded women from traditional leadership posts, and fraternal orders evolved as new centers of community affairs run only by men, women, in an attempt to capture a new measure of social authority, defined themselves as the curators of home and church decoration. With the support of male clerics, they openly championed themselves as the market's arbiters of public taste and domestic consumption.
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