Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Melvin Patrick Ely


A detailed study of local Baptist communities in Tidewater Virginia, "Drawn Together, Drawn Apart" explores the interactions of black and white evangelicals both under slavery and following emancipation. Significant bonds of fellowship between black and white Baptists persisted throughout the antebellum years. The majority of black Baptists continued to engage in baptismal, worship, and disciplinary gatherings with their white neighbors. Baptists of both races participated in the national culture of reform through their commitment to temperance, mission work, and other forms of "benevolence.".;At the same time, a pattern of black religious autonomy was developing. as Christian paternalists, white Baptist leaders sought to bolster supervision of black members, but by frequently commissioning black deacons to do the actual work this monitoring entailed, they fostered opportunities for black leadership, preaching, and literacy; several large all-black congregations were founded during the antebellum period.;The aftermath of Nat Turner's Rebellion in 1831 plays a central role in this study. Scholars have seen that event as the beginning of a period of repression that lasted until general emancipation. Virginia did indeed adopt much stricter black codes in 1832; these included a complete ban on black preaching, exhorting, and independent religious activity. Yet this dissertation presents many examples of how such practices survived, sometimes with the support of white Baptists. Some blacks continued to preach---a fact of which whites were well aware---and black Baptists increasingly met separately from whites. While white leaders sometimes attempted to provide supervision for such meetings, their efforts were often cursory, leading to the conclusion that they either did not care enough about the law to enforce it or that they disagreed with it in the first place. What did bring an end to interracial religious activity was not the Turner revolt, but rather emancipation. Some church splits were initiated by whites, some by blacks, and some were ironically the result of a cooperative effort.;Through the careful examination of local Baptist records, this work illuminates the varied exchanges that took place between nineteenth-century blacks and whites. Amid an increasingly entrenched slaveholding system and an expanding body of black codes, followed by a cataclysmic Civil War, the ways in which black and white Baptists experienced fellowship---both together and separately---reveal much about the development of southern society before and after emancipation.



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