Here’s my latest edition of New and Notable Books. As a reminder, these suggestions focus on recent books in history, especially American history and religious history. These books certainly may interest fellow historians, but I also try to suggest ones that are accessible and (somewhat) affordable to students and general readers.
Elizabeth L. Jemison, Christian Citizens: Reading the Bible in Black and White in the Postemancipation South (UNC Press). “Bringing together the histories of religion, race, and the South, Elizabeth L. Jemison shows how southerners, black and white, drew on biblical narratives as the basis for very different political imaginaries during and after Reconstruction. Focusing on everyday Protestants in the Mississippi River Valley, Jemison scours their biblical thinking and religious attitudes toward race.”
John Fabian Witt, American Contagions: Epidemics and the Law from Smallpox to COVID-19 (Yale Press). Talk about timely! “The legal history of epidemics shows that, throughout American history, public health laws have been liberal for some communities and authoritarian for others.”
William G. Thomas, A Question of Freedom: The Families Who Challenged Slavery from the Nation’s Founding to the Civil War (Yale Press). The Wall Street Journal review says that “Mr. Thomas’s valuable and provocative book follows a constellation of freedom suits over nearly 70 years, most prominently those lodged by the Queen family, whose members were held in bondage on several plantations on Maryland’s western shore (west of the Chesapeake Bay)—plantations that were owned by the Jesuit religious order.”
Aaron Griffith, God’s Law and Order: The Politics of Punishment in Evangelical America (Harvard Press). Darren Dochuk says that “with a balanced and sympathetic touch, Griffith reveals the surprising extent to which law and order concerns have not just driven evangelicalism’s public engagement since the mid-twentieth century, but also stirred its passions for ministry and reform.”
Paul Harvey, Howard Thurman and the Disinherited: A Religious Biography (Eerdmans). Paul Harvey, one of our finest historians of race and religion in American history, takes on the biography of one of the most influential but controversial figures in the history of the civil-rights movement. Thurman was a mentor to Martin Luther King Jr., and author of Jesus and the Disinherited.
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