The Times Were Strange and Stirring

Methodist Preachers and the Crisis of Emancipation

The Times Were Strange and Stirring

Book Pages: 216 Illustrations: Published: July 1995

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, History > U.S. History, Religious Studies

With the conclusion of the Civil War, the beginnings of Reconstruction, and the realities of emancipation, former slaves were confronted with the possibility of freedom and, with it, a new way of life. In The Times Were Strange and Stirring, Reginald F. Hildebrand examines the role of the Methodist Church in the process of emancipation—and in shaping a new world at a unique moment in American, African American, and Methodist history.
Hildebrand explores the ideas and ideals of missionaries from several branches of Methodism—the African Methodist Episcopal Church, the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, and the northern-based Methodist Episcopal Church—and the significant and highly charged battle waged between them over the challenge and meaning of freedom. He traces the various strategies and goals pursued by these competing visions and develops a typology of some of the ways in which emancipation was approached and understood.
Focusing on individual church leaders such as Lucius H. Holsey, Richard Harvey Cain, and Gilbert Haven, and with the benefit of extensive research in church archives and newspapers, Hildebrand tells the dramatic and sometimes moving story of how missionaries labored to organize their denominations in the black South, and of how they were overwhelmed at times by the struggles of freedom.


“Hildebrand has contributed a perspective on Methodist evangelistic activities in the aftermath of the Civil War that will help scholars continue the investigation of this important aspect of American religious history.” — Gardiner H. Shattuck Jr. , American Historical Review

“Hildebrand has written a thought-provoking, well-documented book analyzing the manner in which Methodist ministers from the Civil War to the end of Reconstruction presented the gospel to African Americans in the South and how that presentation affected the activities of blacks in both church and society. . . . A fine scholarly contribution, displaying sensitivity and precision of research.” — Sandy Dwayne Martin, Journal of Southern History

“Hildebrand has written an important and often moving account of Methodist preachers during the Reconstruction era.” — Randy J. Sparks, Georgia Historical Quarterly

“This is a very fine, nuanced, carefully wrought, painstakingly researched, and important contribution.” — Russell E. Richey, Journal of Religion

"The Times Were Strange and Stirring demonstrates the significance and relevance of church history to the study of the diverse reaction of ex-slaves to the new possibilities that freedom opened to them and to the realities of the postbellum South." — John R. McKivigan, West Virginia University

"This book fills an important gap in the history of the black church, reconstruction, and southern history. Hildebrand makes a significant contribution to our understanding of black religious history during the last quarter of the nineteenth century." — Clarence E. Walker, University of California, Davis


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Reginald F. Hildebrand is Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies and History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-1639-8 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-1627-5
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