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A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow Hardcover – January 26, 2004

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. famously said that the South could hew "a stone of hope" from segregation's "mountain of despair." This book explores the role that religion played in shaping that hope. In a brilliant chapter on the grassroots character of the civil rights cause, Chappell argues that the movement could be considered less a political protest with religious dimensions than a religious revival with political and social dimensions. The civil rights struggle had many of the elements of revival-miracle stories, mass religious enthusiasm, music, "conversion" experiences, even messianic expectations. Chappell writes engagingly, drawing an important revisionist portrait of the crucial role of religion in defeating Jim Crow.
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"An arresting new perspective. . . . Few have matched Chappell's sure and subtle understanding of [King's] underlying Christian conviction of human sinfulness." -- Books & Culture, July/August 2004

"One of the three or four most important books on the civil rights movement." -- The Atlantic Monthly, November, 2003

Chappell writes engagingly, drawing an important revisionist portrait of the crucial role of religion in defeating Jim Crow. -- Publishers Weekly (starred review), November 17, 2003

Innovative. . . . A revelation—and a surprise. -- Associated Press, January 2004

Intricate, dazzling in its reach . . . . In its mix of rigor, daring and perceptiveness, [the book] is a spectacular work. -- New York Times Book Review, February 8, 2004

It's impossible to read the book without doing some fundamental rethinking about the role religion can play in . . . public life. -- The New York Times, March 23, 2004

The book is a major contribution to civil-rights history: clearly written, prodigiously researched and forcefully argued. -- The Wall Street Journal, January, 14, 2004

[A] splendid history of the civil rights movement. -- The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2004

[A] stunning reinterpretation of the American civil rights movement. -- The Los Angeles Times Book Review, November 16, 2003

[An] unusually thought-provoking book. . . . Refreshingly unconventional. . . . Chappell merits considerable praise. -- Newsday, March 28, 2004

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press; First Edition edition (January 26, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080782819X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807828199
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 6.1 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #420,684 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David M. Pence on July 26, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Approaching this story as an atheist, I was surprised and skeptical to hear so many of my subjects-- whom I admired from afar--expressing what Bayard Rustin called "fundamentalist" views. Even had I been a believer in the sense that most educated folk use the term I doubt that any isolated testimony of miracles could have struck me as worth copying down in my notes. But it was repeated so much and perhaps because it was so foreign to me ..I kept copying it down and ultimately it appeared a key to the beliefs... and strategic choices of my sources"
David Chappell, author of Stone of Hope

Faith in God allows a man to see more clearly into the reality of things but apparently it has taken Atheist Chappell to write this penetrating book defining the civil rights movement as a religious revival. He plays the righteous pagan Virgil in guiding Christian Dantes through the biblical prophetic theology and working of the Spirit which signaled the civil rights movement as the third American Awakening.
While Chappell is obviously more comfortable with the reasoning and rationales of the Bayard Rustins of the movement, he is also an honest man. All those miracles and fundamentalists kept intruding in his story. He takes religion seriously enough not to study only the protesters but to analyze the inability of the segregationists to mount a serious religious argument against integration. His look behind the "southern white mob" reveals 1) a divided white church, 2) respectable opponents of integration trying to distance themselves from the rabble, and 3) politically potent segregationists unmatched by a similar certitude among religious authorities.
American churches are bellwethers for the nation.
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Format: Hardcover
The Civil Rights Movement has been well covered by previous writers and I have enjoyed most writings on the subject. In A Stone of Hope I see a fresh perspective, a stone that has not been turned before. The role of religion,especially the "old time religion " of southern Black people has now been elevated to its proper height in the analysis of the success of the movement for equality and freedom. God's voice was echoed by the leaders of the movement and an evil system was dismantled. Faith gave them the fire that moved a race of people to stand up for what was theirs and the world is better for their having believed that God would not allow the Oppressors to continue in their sins. It was truly a prophetic movement. I think that all who are interested in the history of the struggle for justice in America should read this book
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
There are countless books that have looked at the Civil Rights Movement from a variety of perspectives. I have read ones that have dealt with everything from a basic biography of the major players in the movement to the relationship with the powers in Washington to the secret surveillance that the FBI was running against them. But none of them have dealt with the deep religious and philosophical issues that motivated the two sides during the struggle and this is a little surprising when one looks at the number of clergy that was involved in the movement. A Stone of Hope looks at the Civil Rights movement from this perspective and makes a very persuasive argument that this is one of the key reasons for its success. The author argues that those who fought for segregation were able to use the black churches and the social networks and moral authority that they provided in a way that the other side could not do despite trying. Interestingly he contrasts this with the struggle against Slavery 100 years previous when the Southern protestant denominations played a much more active and vital role. The author points out several of the inherent contradictions in the Jim Crow system that made it very difficult to defend on theological grounds as well as the class contradictions that existed among the various pro segregation forces. The latter subject has been dealt with in other books but I found it especially interesting when examined through the lens of the fundamental contradictions of the Jim Crow system.

In the conclusion of the book that author admits that his general approach to history is the materialist perspective and that he finds himself identifying more with Marx than Weber.
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Format: Paperback
This is a very academic book, 100 pages of notes and a 30 page bibliographical essay, which is ironic since it is on a topic which is a popular and socially relevant one. It is intelligent but not especially interesting or readable. The argument that religion was important in the Southern civil rights movement does not seem to me to be "provocative". I worked in the civil rights movement in SW TN and MS, religion was quite obviously important, meetings were almost always held in churches, ministers were frequently the local leaders, and expressions of religious faith were common. I'm puzzled by the claims that this is somehow a new idea. But then I am not an expert on the academic literature. The book is worth reading. Other books and information on race here: mwir race blogspot. I create educational websites, Midwest Independent Research.
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