This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

The Gospel Horse in the Valley: Evangelical Slavery and Freedom in the Chattahoochee Valley, 1821-1877




Barber, Stephen Presley

Type of Degree





This dissertation examines the introduction of evangelical religion into the Chattahoochee Valley of Georgia during the frontier era, the formation and characteristics of biracial churches during the antebellum period, and the post-bellum racial separation and organization of independent black churches. It will document the attitudes, ideas, and actions of evangelicals as they formed, organized, and maintained biracial churches in the Chattahoochee Valley. In these churches, black and white evangelicals practiced “evangelical slavery,” defined as the manifestation of chattel slavery in the context of evangelical Christianity as practiced by slaveholders and slaves. This study also discloses the complexities of interactions of blacks and whites and their experiences as they grappled with the uncertainties and conflict brought about by emancipation. This dissertation is the first narrative of the religious history of the Chattahoochee Valley from the beginnings of white settlement to the end of Reconstruction. It is a subset of larger works on southern religion, but uniquely examines the continuity of southern evangelical religion between the time of the invasion of the Chattahoochee Valley by Methodist missionaries in 1821 and the practically complete institutional religious separation by 1877, thus augmenting and challenging previous interpretations of processes and chronology by revealing local patterns of behavior by black and white southern evangelicals.