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Practicing What They Preach? Lynching and Religion in the American South, 1890–1929

Amy Kate Bailey and Karen A. Snedker
American Journal of Sociology
Vol. 117, No. 3 (November 2011), pp. 844-887
DOI: 10.1086/661985
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/661985
Page Count: 44
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Practicing What They Preach? Lynching and Religion in the American
                    South, 1890–1929
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Abstract

This project employs a moral solidarity framework to explore the relationship between organized religion and lynching in the American South. The authors ask whether a county’s religious composition affected its rate of lynching, net of demographic and economic controls. The authors find evidence for the solidarity thesis, using three religious metrics. First, their findings show that counties with greater religious diversity experienced more lynching, supporting the notion that a pluralistic religious marketplace with competing religious denominations weakened the bonds of a cohesive moral community and might have enhanced white racial solidarity. Second, counties in which a larger share of the black population worshipped in churches controlled by blacks experienced higher levels of racial violence, indicating a threat to intergroup racially based solidarity. Finally, the authors find a lower incidence of lynching in counties where a larger share of church members belonged to racially mixed denominations, suggesting that cross-racial solidarity served to reduce racial violence.

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