RiAH at 10: On The Importance Of Book Links



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Paul Putz


Paul Harvey signing books for
one of the members of his fan club
All this #10thAnniversay stuff has made me sentimental, so I went back and looked at my first RiAH blog post. It was posted in May 2013, and it involved a discussion of Kanye West, Jesus, and Paul Harvey's and Ed Blum's book The Color of Christ. Its sole redeeming quality, so far as I can tell, was that it included a link to the Amazon page for The Color of Christ. The lesson: post links to other people's books and they might let you write for their blog.

For me the best part of RiAH has been the people who come with it, the online network of scholars who write, read, or comment on the blog. Even unknown grad students like me can find a place at the table. Most of the conference panels in which I've participated and the research ideas I've pursued (including my switch in dissertation topics) have been influenced in some way by people I've connected with because of RiAH. While I'm lucky that my home institution provides a supportive environment for grad students, the academic world outside Baylor has felt like a warm and inviting place largely because of people I've met through RiAH.

It's also thanks to RiAH that other scholars in the field have any clue who I am. They may not know what I research, but they sometimes have a vague sense that I might be the person who compiles lists of new and forthcoming books for RiAH. Apparently the lesson I learned from my first post, that linking to other people's books can bring goodwill, has stuck with me.

I started writing for RiAH the summer before I entered the PhD program at Baylor. It's now the summer before my last year, and here I am. RiAH has been one of the constants of my PhD experience, and all for the good. Thanks to Paul Harvey for starting this thing and thanks to him and everyone else for making it a welcoming space for grad students to explore ideas, develop their voice, and become more comfortable in the strange world of academia.

RiAH at 10: We Don't Need No Stinkin' Badges!



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Elesha Coffman

I like academic conferences. Always have. Way back when I was the editor of Christian History magazine, I attended a Conference on Faith and History meeting in San Diego and then the American Society of Church History winter meeting in San Francisco, searching for new story ideas and potential authors. My husband, Eric, was with me in San Francisco, and we found ourselves in an elevator with two tweed-coated male historians who were so engrossed in their conversation that they were just riding up and down, oblivious to whatever floor they were supposed to be heading to. When we were out of earshot, Eric asked me, "Are these your people?" and I knew that the answer was "Yes." Soon I had left journalism for grad school in the history of American religion.

This blog has functioned, for me, primarily as an extension of academic conferences. My very first posts, in summer 2011, recapped the Religion and American Culture conference, which had raised two huge questions: "Do Religion Scholars Read the Bible?" and what is the "Future of Religion in America?" In my first job, at a school with just two historians and one religion scholar on faculty, I did not get to have these conversations, and I wasn't ready for them to end when I departed from Indianapolis. The inestimable Paul Harvey allowed me to throw my thoughts onto the blog and keep the ball rolling.

One of my favorite conference photos, from Mainz 2014
In the past six years, I've previewed and reviewed numerous other conferences here, as well as shared updates from the American Society of Church History, of which I became a council member in 2015. (Don't forget to renew your membership and stay at the ASCH hotel in D.C. in January!) People I've "met" through RiAH I subsequently met, and often presented alongside, at real-life conferences, where our interactions were enriched by the sustained conversation made possible at this blog. In New York, or Chicago, or wherever, instead of, "Hello, what is it you work on?" while we squint at each other's nametag, it's, "So good to see you, I loved that book review you posted, you're taller than I expected, and how is that new class going?"

In my view, the whole field functions better because we can meet here even when we can't meet in person. Thanks for this tremendous feat of event-planning, Paul!

RIAH @ 10: Wooooo!



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Michael J. Altman

I wrote Paul an email saying something to the effect of:
“Hi, I’m Mike. Your blog ignores Asia. I can write about Asia.”
I still can’t believe Paul let me on this blog. The idea that you’d just give me the ability to post something without anyone reading it or editing it is insane. The freedom to just put ideas out there and then get a response from a ready-made audience who was interested. The challenge of figuring out how to provoke that audience, how to get them to engage, was intoxicating.

I’ve tried to walk a line between history and religious studies in my work. I learned how to walk that line by writing for this blog. How do I take the theoretical work I do and make it not just intelligible, but useful, for someone trained in a history department? What can I learn from these historians?

This blog is my academic baby book. I went from a baby just out of coursework to a professor with a published book. It’s all there in the posts. Along the way, this blog helped me find my voice. It allowed me to play, experiment, pick up this idea and set it back down again, and send up test balloons. I think it functioned that way for a lot of us young scholars and it still does. It’s an independent wrestling circuit where we can try out new moves, try on new characters, and see what really gets the crowd going. Paul Harvey is our Ric Flairthe world champion always willing to put the young talent over.

And that’s the real truth of this blog. It was Paul’s blog but it was never about Paul. There are senior scholars who publish as much as they possibly can. There are senior scholars who try to get others published as much as they can. Paul is the latter. I still can’t believe he let me write here. It was one of the best things that happened to me as a scholar.

There could have been less fantasy football, though.

Thoughts on Being "Laverne and Shirley" to Paul Harvey's "Happy Days"



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John Fea

Paul Harvey is Cheers, I am Frasier. Harvey is Dallas, I am Knots Landing. Harvey is The Mary Tyler Moore Show, I am Rhoda (or maybe Lou Grant).

Hopefully you are picking up the theme.  My blog "The Way of Improvement Leads Home" will always be known as a somewhat inferior spin-off to Paul Harvey's "Religion in American History." (RiAH).

When I was asked to write something for the 10th anniversary of RiAH, I dug up an old post at The Way of Improvement Leads Home that captures my blogging journey and the role that Paul and RiAH has played in it. Here is a taste of that post: 

Whatever blogging "career" I might have I owe to Paul Harvey.  On July 5, 2007 I found Harvey's new blog (it was a solo operation then) called Religion in American History and wrote a comment on a post I liked on W.E.B. DuBois. Here is what I wrote: 

Paul: Great post. I found your blog on the Cliopatria blogroll and have enjoyed reading it so far. --John 

About an hour later, Paul responded: 

John: Thanks! Please spread the blog address to Am. religious history folks, and let me know if you have any interest in contributing to the blog -- Paul 

I decided to take the plunge and within a few days I was listed as the blog's first "Contributing Editor." On July 7, 2007 (7-7-07) I wrote my first blog post-- a review of a Boston Review essay by Lew Daly on Catholicism and the common good. I have since written 58 posts for Harvey's blog, including [at the time] one of his most popular, and still try to contribute something worthwhile every now and then.

Paul's vision for a blog that would combine opinion, news from the profession, historical reflection on current events, and new research seemed to be a wonderful outlet for my rather eclectic interests in American history, religious history, and academic life.  But I was also taken by the sense of community that Paul always fostered at the blog.  I tried to cultivate this kind of online community when I started The Way of Improvement Leads Home in 2008.

It has been very exciting to watch the RiAH grow and become a place where many younger scholars in the field can try out their ideas.  I know that this is the kind of online space Paul wanted to create back when he began this venture a decade ago.

I have not blogged at RiAH in a long time, but I still check-in every day.  I always learn something in the process.

Congratulations to all who have been involved in the leadership of RiAH--Paul Harvey, Kelly Baker, Randall Stephens, Cara Burnidge, and Michael Hammond (I hope I am not forgetting anyone here).  I think it is fair to say that your work has brought a new vibrancy to the field of American religious history and American history broadly.

And I will always be honored to be Trapper John M.D. to Paul Harvey's MASH!

Religion in American History: A Short Syllabus



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Editor's Note:  As Jonathan and Chris have recently pointed out, July 2017 marks the beginning of Religion in American History's tenth year. Happy birthday to us! Throughout the month we'll be celebrating and reflecting upon the contributions shared and inspired through the blog...not to mention its intellectual and creative founding father, Paul Harvey. Today's post comes from another pillar of the RiAH community, Ed Blum, who--to the surprise of no one--models a longstanding RiAH value of sharing and highlighting the work of others.

Edward Blum

The blog always felt like a big classroom to me – where we could bring up books, ideas, evidence, and everything else. I routinely use posts from the blog in my class and so I thought it would be fun to put together a little list of materials for some main themes in American religious history. Please forgive my excessive focus on the twentieth-century … since students seem to like it the most that’s where I gravitate in the classroom.

Contact and Colonialism
The American War for Independence and Early Nationhood
Nineteenth-Century Bonanza
Modernism and Fundamentalism
Great Depression, WWII, and Cold War
Civil Rights Movements
Pluralism versus the New Right

RiAH at 10: An Appreciation



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By Chris Cantwell

The thing I remember most about the summer of 2007 was feeling lonely. Having passed my comprehensive exams at Cornell University in upstate New York the prior summer, my partner and I had recently made the decision to relocate to Chicago so I could conduct my dissertation research. It was an exciting move as I had grown up about an hour and a half west of the metropolis and had long been fascinated by its history. But it was also an isolating experience as I didn't really know anyone in the city proper. Research only reinforced this sense isolation. My days became spent holed up in archives or alone at my desk reading, writing, reading, and reading some more. At times my only solace was this new thing called Facebook, which my Cornell colleagues demanded I join so we could keep in touch after we moved. But on the afternoon of July 26, 2007, I received an invitation to join an even larger community of friends, colleagues, and fellow travelers.

The first post as it appears in the
WayBack Machine.
I know the exact date because I checked. That day a member of my dissertation committee, Derek Chang, forwarded me an announcement about this new blog called Religion in American History that had launched only a month earlier. When I clicked on the link I was taken to a post authored by a historian I had not heard of before who was writing about a book by another historian I didn't know. The author, of course, was Paul Harvey, the blog's founder, and the post was about Ed Blum's then new book on the religious history of W. E. B. DuBois. I was immediately struck. Here was a network of scholars whose interests aligned with my own; who engaged in conversations on issues relevant both to academic research an the wider world. Here was a community.

Over the course that summer I followed along as Paul Harvey electronically introduced me to a multitude of historians I had yet to meet. And over the course of the next several years Religion in American History became one of the primary means by which I found a circle of friends and colleagues that continues to inspire and sustain me to this day. RiAH turned ten last month; and ten years ago this month I stumbled across the blog. I can think of no better use of my post for this month than to celebrate the community that RiAH now sustains. From the simple, 154-word post Paul wrote on Ed's new book has grown a vibrant network of researchers, writers, and thinkers that now, as John McGreevy recently wrote, "steers the field." This is absolutely something to marvel at and celebrate.

So happy birthday, Religion in American History. Here's to ten years of community and conversation. And here's to blogmeister Paul Harvey, who saw the need and took the effort to anchor and mediate what we so value.

CFP: Material and Visual Culture of the American South



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Emily Suzanne Clark


The Journal of Southern Religion and MAVCOR Journal (published by the Center for the Study of Material and Visual Cultures of Religion) are pleased to announce a call for submissions for a joint issue titled "Material and Visual Cultures of Religion in the American South."

We are interested in submissions in a range of formats: original scholarly articles, review essays, photo essays, interviews with southern religious artists and/or religious professionals, object narratives, or retrospectives of previously published work (one's own or others'; books or films). Both journals enable submissions containing rich digital materials of various sorts and we highly encourage submissions with visual, audio, video, or other types of media.

Please direct submissions and inquiries to both Journal of Southern Religion associate editor Emily Suzanne Clark (clarke2@gonzaga.edu) and MAVCOR Journal editor and curator Emily Floyd (emily.floyd@yale.edu). We wish to receive final submissions for peer review no later than April 1, 2018. Click here for a link to the formal call for papers.

Happy Birthday, RiAH!



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Jonathan Den Hartog

Via cliparts.co/clipart/4990
Blogmeister Cara Burnidge has pointed out that this month the Religion in American History Blog turns 10. Happy Birthday!

2007 seems a long time ago professionally, as this rather fresh Ph.D. had just completed his first year of teaching in Minnesota. Even out of graduate school, I quickly became aware of the Religion in American History blog. It was a great way to keep a finger on the pulse of American Religious History and monitor what people were thinking about.

Several years later, I appreciated the invite from blog founder Paul Harvey to contribute. One of my earliest posts was this one, a review of a novel about American missionaries abroad.

I appreciate Paul's grace as I learned the ropes, whether of etiquette (not stepping on someone else's post!) or of technology, as one of my posts broke the site (hint: Microsoft products and blogger don't play well together).

Participating in the blog has allowed me to stay in touch with the community of scholars of American religion. This could be in the comments section of any post or in the emerging discussion as post builds on post. The blog thus has worked to foster a digital community, and I've appreciated that, even if I couldn't make it to every conference in the field.

Through the blog, I've appreciated the opportunity to remind the world of the on-going work and importance of religious developments in colonial, Revolutionary, and early republican America.

Finally, I continue to enjoy reading the blog as new ideas get shared, as new writers come on strong (welcome, Andrea Turpin!), and as Paul Putz keeps my reading list stocked with more titles than I can get to!

Here's to many more years for the RiAH community!


What is America? Who is America? Who's is America?



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Cara Burnidge

Declaration of Independence

Frederick Douglass, "What To The Slave Is the Fourth of July? " (1841), Black Perspectives

Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions, 1848

Emma Lazarus, "The New Colossus" (1883); Steve Macone, "The New 'New Colossus'" (2017)

Irvin Berlin "God Bless America" (1918; 1938); performed by Kate Smith

Langston Hughes, "I, Too, Sing America," 1926 [poem only]; with analysis from Smithsonian historian David Ward

Langston Hughes, "Let America Be America Again" [with images]; [read by James Earl Jones]

Allen Ginsberg, "America" (1956; performed ?)

Odetta, "Battle Hymn of the Republic" (1956); performed Johnny Cash; performed by Joan Baez

Martin Luther King, Jr. "The American Dream," (1965)

Jimi Hendrix, "Star Spangled Banner," (1969); Whitney Houston, "Star Spangled Banner," (1991)

Ray Charles, "America the Beautiful" (1972)

Woodie Guthrie, "This Land is Your Land"; performed by Bruce Springsteen (1985)

Simon & Garfunkel, "America" (1968); David Bowie, "America" (2002)

Neil Diamon, "America," The Jazz Singer, 1980

James Brown, "Living in America," 1985 [Rocky IV]

Toby Keith, "Courtesy of the Red, White, & Blue" (2001)

Nas, "America"  (2008)

Cimorelli, "Made in America" (2013)

Lecrae, "Welcome to America" (2014)

Los Angeles Team, "Somewhere in America," Brave New Voices 2014 Finals

Rihanna, "American Oxygen," 2015

President Barack Obama, "Amazing Grace" (2015)

"Hallelujah," performed by Kate McKinnon (2016)

"Immigrants: We Get the Job Done" (2017)

"Make America Great Again" performed by First Baptist Church in Dallas [lyrics here & full program]

Six Questions With Kyle Roberts: The Rise of Evangelical Gotham



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Kyle Roberts is Associate Professor of public history and new media at Loyola University Chicago and director of the Jesuit Libraries Provence Project. I recently interviewed Kyle about his new book, Evangelical Gotham: Religion and the Making of New York City, 1783-1860 (University of Chicago Press).



PC: What happens to early American Religious History – and American history – if we locate evangelical revivals in New York City rather than at Cane Ridge? What should we rethink?

KR: In graduate school in the early 2000s, the scholarship that I found most engaging was about evangelicalism and urban religion. Yet the two rarely overlapped. Antebellum evangelicalism was often told as a rural story – more likely to focus on camp meetings on the frontier than on outpourings of the spirit in urban churches. We knew more about Cane Ridge in 1801 than Allen Street in 1832. Works of urban religion tended to be post-Civil War studies of religious groups moving into urban environments created by others and trying to make them their own. I wanted to know what role the religious played in building the modernizing city in the first place. No city grew at a more transformational rate than New York in the first half of the nineteenth century, so I thought I would look there.


Know Your Archives 2: Archives II (NARA-College Park)



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Cara Burnidge

For the past month, I've been thinking about American religion in the world. Following RAAC 2017, I drove to College Park, Maryland for three weeks of research at the National Archives at College Park (or, Archives II).  Every other year, the Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations meets in D.C. and many members (myself included) use these D.C. years to do research. Two birds, one travel expense stone. Building off of Lauren's fantastic review of this year's SHAFR meeting and Mike's Know Your Archives: NARA edition, I'd like to give everyone a few more tips for researching at Archives II in College Park (where State Department records are held) and share some very important news for any colleagues working on the World War I era. 

First, who should consider researching at A2 or writing about religion in US  foreign relations? Anyone who's research interests intersect with the US government's actions abroad. As I wrote in Religious Influences in American Foreign Policy for ORE, "Any civilian who served as an informant, as a formal or informal diplomat, or who aided in creating policy decisions will intersect with NARA. Any federal employee who appealed to a religious figure, group, or event to aid in the implementation of foreign relations will also intersect with NARA." So...lots of us.

Next, how can you make the most of a trip to A2?

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