Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Constructing and Crossing Color Lines: Race and Religion in the Southern Confluence, 1810-1865

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in History

First Advisor

Elizabeth A. Payne

Second Advisor

Mikaela Adams

Third Advisor

Robbie Ethridge

Relational Format



Using ethnographic accounts, oral histories, government documents, census data, church and mission records, personal diaries and journals, and other public records, the project contributes to and revises the work of other scholars on the Native South, capitalism and slavery, and Southern religion. It builds upon the work of scholars who argue that the antebellum South emerged from an older South that included European American colonizers who lived among enslaved people and shared cultural and economic ties with the Chickasaws. Within the Southern confluence, Chickasaws’ embrace and defense of race-based slavery reveals the intersection of colonial exploitation and enslaving. A focus on Native Americans’ enslaving practices, in addition to the making of the antebellum household and its link to religious doctrine and institutions at a localized level, further clarifies recent scholarship that highlights the links between slavery and capitalism as well as work that deals with Southern religion. The viability of the household rested on white women’s willingness and ability to uphold its basic foundations within a capitalist world economy, in which the white Southern enslavers and their property were fully ingratiated. To manage their households, white Southern women used the capitalistic tools they learned in schools, backed by religious institutions, and often cloaked their economic activities in a spiritual language. The project also uses a concept of “Black sacred space” to demonstrate how enslaved people critiqued religious justifications for white household organization. To understand the lives of enslaved people within Black sacred spaces, this project builds upon the work of historians who have interpreted music, folklore, language, and healing as constitutive of enslaved people’s religious lives in both the walls of churches and the setting of brush arbors. The project concludes by considering the long term ramifications of the racially stratified and religious society created in the Southern confluence between the 1810s and 1860s. The structures that served as the foundation of antebellum society in North Mississippi resonated among elite white women during the twentieth century.


The author requested to remove access to the thesis on 02/03/2022.

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