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Critical Studies of Southern Place

A Reader


Edited By William M. Reynolds

Critical Studies of Southern Place: A Reader critically investigates and informs the construction of Southernness, Southern identity, and the South past and present. It promotes and expands the notion of a Southern epistemology. Authors from across the South write about such diverse topics as Southern working-class culture; LGBT issues in the South; Southern music; Southern reality television; race and ethnicity in the South; religion in the South; sports in the South; and Southernness. How do these multiple interpretations of popular culture within critical conceptualizations of place enhance our understandings of education? Critical Studies of Southern Place investigates the connections between the critical examination of place-specific culture and its multiple connections with education and pedagogy. This important book fills a significant gap in the scholarly work on the ramifications of place. Readers will be able to center the importance of place in their own scholarship and cultural work as well as be able to think deeply about how Southern place affects us all.
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Chapter Twenty-One: Purgatory’sPlace in the South: A Black Woman’s Journey from Church to the Promised Land



Purgatory’s Place in the South: A Black Woman’s Journey from Church to the Promised Land


The black experience in the United States is multidimensional, therefore it cannot be put into a box. From the time slaves were brought to the United States from Africa, families with different African cultures, languages, and mores were severed and placed in a dehumanizing monolithic condition where survival was their common goal. This condition often has been confused with a monolithic black culture; nonetheless, it was centered in the black church because that was the only place in society where blacks could legally convene, have community, and hold leadership positions. This morphed from once reluctantly accepting an imposed religion that justified their condition to appease their oppressors, to creatively communicating with one another and saving their bodies.

This chapter chronicles paradigm shifts in my thinking along my journey from black Christian fundamentalism and poverty to life as a socially mobile nonreligious spiritually focused diversity educator. I pause here to collect myself, because coming out from hiding in social closets can often have polarizing results that can be both traumatic and therapeutic. This is my coming out as a closeted nonreligious member of the black community, a community where religion is revered as the savior of my race and the provider of grace. In doing this, I risk losing the support and protection that my community can provide and any credibility of integrity...

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