Southern by the Grace of God
download cover image ►

Southern by the Grace of God

Religion, Race, and Civil Rights in Hollywood's American South

Title Details

Pages: 256

Illustrations: 23 b&w

Trim size: 6.000in x 9.000in

Formats

Paperback

Pub Date: 11/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6762-0

List Price: $29.95

eBook

Pub Date: 11/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6765-1

List Price: $29.95

eBook

Pub Date: 11/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6764-4

List Price: $29.95

Hardcover

Pub Date: 11/01/2024

ISBN: 9-780-8203-6763-7

List Price: $119.95

Southern by the Grace of God

Religion, Race, and Civil Rights in Hollywood's American South

An examination of the use of Protestant Christianity in cinematic depictions of the American South

Skip to

  • Description
  • Reviews

Like the media coverage of the civil rights era itself, Hollywood dramas have reinforced regional stereotypes of race, class, and gender to cleanse and redeem the wider nation from the implications of systemic racism. As Southern by the Grace of God reveals, however, Hollywood manipulates southern religion (in particular) to further enhance this pattern of difference and regional exceptionalism, consistently displacing broader American racism through a representation of the poor white southerner who is as religious as he (and it is always a he) is racist. By foregrounding the role of religion in these characterizations, Megan Hunt illuminates the pernicious intersections between Hollywood and southern exceptionalism, a long-standing U.S. nationalist discourse that has assigned racial problems to the errant South alone, enabling white supremacy to not only endure but reproduce throughout the nation.

Southern by the Grace of God examines the presentation and functions of Protestant Christianity in cinematic depictions of the American South. Hunt argues that religion is an understudied signifier of the South on film, used—with varying degrees of sophistication—to define the region’s presumed exceptionalism for regional, national, and international audiences. Rooted in close textual analysis and primary research into the production and reception of more than twenty Hollywood films that engage with the civil rights movement and/or its legacy, this book provides detailed case studies of films that use southern religiosity to negotiate American anxieties around race, class, and gender. Religion, Hunt contends, is an integral trope of the South in popular culture and especially crucial to the divisions essential to Hollywood storytelling.

An engaging mix of sociohistorical context and astute readings of films on a timely subject—namely the filmic representation of religion as it relates to issues of race and class in the U.S. South. Critical debates about the extent of southern exceptionalism, engaged explicitly and implicitly by Hunt, are arguably more important than ever considering current racial tensions. Additionally, Southern by the Grace of God not only demonstrates how Black-oriented civil rights films reclaim black identity and experience from Hollywood’s imaginary but also why that reclamation is so important.

—Andrew Leiter, author of Southerners on Film: Essays on Hollywood Portrayals Since the 1970s

About the Author/Editor

MEGAN HUNT is a lecturer in modern and contemporary history at the University of Edinburgh.