Recent Works by Our Researchers
The Presbyterian Historical Society’s holdings support scholarship on a vast range of topics. On this page, we present a selection of recent publications by researchers who have worked with our collections.
Gods of Indian Country: Religion and the Struggle for the American West by Jennifer Graber (Oxford University Press, April 2018)
During the nineteenth century, white Americans sought the cultural transformation and physical displacement of Native people. Though this process was certainly a clash of rival economic systems and racial ideologies, it was also a profound spiritual struggle. The fight over Indian Country sparked religious crises among both Natives and Americans.
In The Gods of Indian Country, Jennifer Graber tells the story of the Kiowa Indians during Anglo-Americans' hundred-year effort to seize their homeland. Like Native people across the American West, Kiowas had known struggle and dislocation before. But the forces bearing down on them-soldiers, missionaries, and government officials-were unrelenting. With pressure mounting, Kiowas adapted their ritual practices in the hope that they could use sacred power to save their lands and community.
Against the Kiowas stood Protestant and Catholic leaders, missionaries, and reformers who hoped to remake Indian Country. These activists saw themselves as the Indians' friends, teachers, and protectors. They also asserted the primacy of white Christian civilization and the need to transform the spiritual and material lives of Native people. When Kiowas and other Native people resisted their designs, these Christians supported policies that broke treaties and appropriated Indian lands. They argued that the gifts bestowed by Christianity and civilization outweighed the pains that accompanied the denial of freedoms, the destruction of communities, and the theft of resources. In order to secure Indian Country and control indigenous populations, Christian activists sanctified the economic and racial hierarchies of their day.
Enlisting Faith: How the Military Chaplaincy Shaped Religion and State in Modern America by Ronit Y. Stahl (Harvard University Press, November 2017)
A century ago, as the United States prepared to enter World War I, the military chaplaincy included only mainline Protestants and Catholics. Today it counts Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Christian Scientists, Buddhists, Seventh-day Adventists, Hindus, and evangelicals among its ranks. Enlisting Faith traces the uneven processes through which the military struggled with, encouraged, and regulated religious pluralism over the twentieth century.
Moving from the battlefields of Europe to the jungles of Vietnam and between the forests of Civilian Conservation Corps camps and meetings in government offices, Ronit Y. Stahl reveals how the military borrowed from and battled religion. Just as the state relied on religion to sanction war and sanctify death, so too did religious groups seek recognition as American faiths. At times the state used religion to advance imperial goals. But religious citizens pushed back, challenging the state to uphold constitutional promises and moral standards.
Despite the constitutional separation of church and state, the federal government authorized and managed religion in the military. The chaplaincy demonstrates how state leaders scrambled to handle the nation’s deep religious, racial, and political complexities. While officials debated which clergy could serve, what insignia they would wear, and what religions appeared on dog tags, chaplains led worship for a range of faiths, navigated questions of conscience, struggled with discrimination, and confronted untimely death. Enlisting Faith is a vivid portrayal of religious encounters, state regulation, and the trials of faith―in God and country―experienced by the millions of Americans who fought in and with the armed forces.
Protestants Abroad: How Missionaries Tried to Change the World but Changed America by David A. Hollinger (Princeton University Press, October 2017)
Between the 1890s and the Vietnam era, many thousands of American Protestant missionaries were sent to live throughout the non-European world. They expected to change the people they encountered, but those foreign people ended up transforming the missionaries. Their experience abroad made many of these missionaries and their children critical of racism, imperialism, and religious orthodoxy. When they returned home, they brought new liberal values back to their own society. Protestants Abroad reveals the untold story of how these missionary-connected individuals left an enduring mark on American public life as writers, diplomats, academics, church officials, publishers, foundation executives, and social activists.
David A. Hollinger provides riveting portraits of such figures as Pearl Buck, John Hersey, and Life and Time publisher Henry Luce, former "mish kids" who strove through literature and journalism to convince white Americans of the humanity of other peoples. Hollinger describes how the U.S. government's need for citizens with language skills and direct experience in Asian societies catapulted dozens of missionary-connected individuals into prominent roles in intelligence and diplomacy. Meanwhile, Edwin Reischauer and other scholars with missionary backgrounds led the growth of Foreign Area Studies in universities during the Cold War. The missionary contingent advocated multiculturalism and anticolonialism, pushed their churches in ecumenical and social-activist directions, and joined with Jewish intellectuals to challenge traditional Protestant cultural hegemony and promote a pluralist vision of American life. Missionary cosmopolitans were the Anglo-Protestant counterparts of the New York Jewish intelligentsia of the same era.
Protestants Abroad reveals the crucial role that missionary-connected American Protestants played in the development of modern American liberalism, and how they helped other Americans reimagine their nation's place in the world.
The Presbyterian Experience in the United States: A Sourcebook by William Yoo (Westminster John Knox Press, September 2017)
The Presbyterian Experience in the United States introduces readers to the Presbyterian movement in the United States as told by those who lived through and contributed to its history. William Yoo has drawn together essential documents from the colonial period to the present that illustrate and illumine U.S. Presbyterianism across diversities of race, ethnicity, geography, gender, age, and theological position. Readers will follow the church's journey from modest origins as a Scots-Irish immigrant church to prominence on the national stage, from early revivals and tent meetings to large-scale theological debates, from defense of slavery and racial intolerance to the pursuit of social justice and racial reconciliation, and from retreat into theologically narrow enclaves to active engagement with national and international politics and culture. Yoo weaves together a coherent and compelling narrative using the voices of those who sought a faithfully Presbyterian witness to the gospel. Arranged both chronologically and thematically with historical maps and photos, this book provides a lively and accessible vista into the making and shaping of Presbyterianism in the United States.
In his 1903 hit "Congo Love Song," James Weldon Johnson recounts a sweet if seemingly generic romance between two young Africans. While the song’s title may appear consistent with that narrative, it also invokes the site of King Leopold II of Belgium’s brutal colonial regime at a time when African Americans were playing a central role in a growing Congo reform movement. In an era when popular vaudeville music frequently trafficked in racist language and imagery, "Congo Love Song" emerges as one example of the many ways that African American activists, intellectuals, and artists called attention to colonialism in Africa.
In Congo Love Song, Ira Dworkin examines black Americans’ long cultural and political engagement with the Congo and its people. Through studies of George Washington Williams, Booker T. Washington, Pauline Hopkins, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X, and other figures, he brings to light a long-standing relationship that challenges familiar presumptions about African American commitments to Africa. Dworkin offers compelling new ways to understand how African American involvement in the Congo has helped shape anticolonialism, black aesthetics, and modern black nationalism.
Read Ira Dworkin's post Congo Love Song on the PHS blog.
Unity in Christ and Country: American Presbyterians in the Revolutionary Era by William Harrison Taylor (University of Alabama Press, June 2017)
In this compelling account, William Harrison Taylor examines the interdenominational pursuits of the American Presbyterian Church from 1758 to 1801 to highlight the church’s ambitious agenda of fostering and uniting a host of New World values, among them Christendom, nationalism, and territorial exceptionalism.
Taylor engages a variety of sources, including the published and unpublished works of both the Synods of New York and Philadelphia and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, as well as numerous published and unpublished Presbyterian sermons, lectures, hymnals, poetry, and letters. Scholars of religious history, particularly those interested in the Reformed tradition, and specifically Presbyterianism, should find Unity in Christ and Country useful as a way to consider the importance of the theology’s intellectual and pragmatic implications for members of the faith.
Project Eagle: The American Christians of North Korea in World War II by Robert S. Kim (University of Nebraska Press, May 2017)
Project Eagle tells the story of American missionaries in Korea from 1884 to 1942. They brought a new religion, modern education, and American political ideals to a nation conquered and ruled by the Japanese Empire. The missionaries’ influence inextricably linked Christianity and American-style democracy to Korean nationalism and independence, meanwhile establishing an especially strong presence in Pyongyang. Project Eagle connects this era for the first time to OSS-Korean cooperation during the war through the story of its central figures: American missionary sons George McCune and Clarence Weems and one of Korea’s leading national heroes, Kim Ku. Project Eagle illuminates the shared history between Americans and Koreans that has remained largely unexamined since World War II. The legacy of these American actions in Korea, ignored by the U.S. government and the academy since 1945, has shaped the relationship of the United States to both North Korea and South Korea and remains crucial to understanding the future of U.S. relations with both Koreas.
Maintaining Segregation: Children and Racial Instruction in the South, 1920-1955 by LeeAnn G. Reynolds (LSU Press, May 2017)
In Maintaining Segregation, LeeAnn G. Reynolds explores how black and white children in the early twentieth-century South learned about segregation in their homes, schools, and churches. As public lynchings and other displays of racial violence declined in the 1920s, a culture of silence developed around segregation, serving to forestall, absorb, and deflect individual challenges to the racial hierarchy. The cumulative effect of the racial instruction southern children received, prior to highly publicized news such as the Brown v. Board of Education decision and the Montgomery bus boycott, perpetuated segregation by discouraging discussion or critical examination.