By Fred Hobson
Hobson applies the time period "racial conversion narrative" to a number of autobiographies or works of hugely own social statement by way of Lillian Smith, Katharine Du Pre Lumpkin, James McBride Dabbs, Sarah Patton Boyle, Will Campbell, Larry L. King, Willie Morris, Pat Watters, and different southerners, books written among the mid-1940s and the overdue Seventies within which the authors - all items of and prepared individuals in a harsh, segregated society - confess racial wrongdoings and are "converted," in various levels, from racism to whatever impending racial enlightenment. certainly, the language of a lot of those works is, Hobson issues out, the language of non secular conversion - "sin," "guilt," "blindness," "seeing the light," "repentance," "redemption," etc. Hobson additionally seems at contemporary autobiographical volumes by way of Ellen Douglas, Elizabeth Spencer, and Rick Bragg to teach how the medium persists, if in a slightly diversified shape, even on the very finish of the 20th century.
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Extra resources for But now I see: the White southern racial conversion narrative
Vann Woodward, in Woodward, Introduction to Blair, A Southern Prophecy: The Prosperity of the South Dependent upon the Elevation of the Negro (Boston, 1964), xxvi, xxvii, xlv. Page 14 ingbut not the desire, and perhaps not the courage, to confront race in personal and autobiographical, not to mention confessional, terms. Ellen Glasgow barely mentions race in her autobiography, The Woman Within. 19 The case of Allen Tate makes the point even more convincingly. In his brief essay "A Lost Traveller's Dream," an autobiographical fragment of some twenty pages, Tate brings to the surface material which should prompt racial guilt, particularlyas Lewis P.
Southern evangelical ministers, preparatory to conversion, focused largely on individual sins such as drunkenness, adultery, and impietysins committed against God, one's family, or oneselfrather than societal, especially racial, sins. Social ethics, thus, was not necessarily a part of religion. Such had not always been the case in the southern church; in the late eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth it was not unusual for southern evangelicals to question what they believed to be ills of southern society, including slavery.
See Samuel S. , Southern Churches in Crisis (New York, 1966), 106. ")3 Of course, there existed among the Puritans a kind of hierarchy, an aristocracy of sinfulness, and each Puritan tried to surpass the other in a profession of wretchedness, the assumption seeming to be the greater the sinner the greater the potential saintand the greater God's grace in transforming his life. Such pride in one's earlier transgressions was, after all, in the tradition of St. Paul, who had also proclaimed himself the greatest of sinners.