Across the Shaman’s River is the story of one of Alaska’s last Native American strongholds, a Tlingit community closed off for a century until a fateful encounter between a shaman, a preacher, and John Muir.
Tucked in the corner of Southeast Alaska, the Tlingits had successfully warded off the Anglo influences that had swept into other corners of the territory. This tribe was viewed by European and American outsiders as the last wild tribe and a frustrating impediment to access. Missionaries and prospectors alike had widely failed to bring the Tlingit into their power. Yet, when John Muir arrived in 1879, accompanied by a fiery preacher, it only took a speech about “brotherhood”—and some encouragement from the revered local shaman Skandoo’o—to finally transform these “hostile heathens.”
Using Muir’s original journal entries, as well as historic writings of explorers juxtaposed with insights from contemporary tribal descendants, Across the Shaman’s River reveals how Muir’s famous canoe journey changed the course of history and had profound consequences on the region’s Native Americans.
The Japanese army’s brutal four-month occupation of the city of Nanking during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War is known, for good reason, as “the rape of Nanking.” As they slaughtered an estimated three hundred thousand people, the invading soldiers raped more than twenty thousand women—some estimates run as high as eighty thousand. Hua-ling Hu presents here the amazing untold story of the American missionary Minnie Vautrin, whose unswerving defiance of the Japanese protected ten thousand Chinese women and children and made her a legend among the Chinese people she served.
Vautrin, who came to be known in China as the “Living Goddess” or the “Goddess of Mercy,” joined the Foreign Christian Missionary Society and went to China during the Chinese Nationalist Revolution in 1912. As dean of studies at Ginling College in Nanking, she devoted her life to promoting Chinese women’s education and to helping the poor.
At the outbreak of the war in July 1937, Vautrin defied the American embassy’s order to evacuate the city. After the fall of Nanking in December, Japanese soldiers went on a rampage of killing, burning, looting, rape, and torture, rapidly reducing the city to a hell on earth. On the fourth day of the occupation, Minnie Vautrin wrote in her diary: “There probably is no crime that has not been committed in this city today. . . . Oh, God, control the cruel beastliness of the soldiers in Nanking.”
When the Japanese soldiers ordered Vautrin to leave the campus, she replied: “This is my home. I cannot leave.” Facing down the blood-stained bayonets constantly waved in her face, Vautrin shielded the desperate Chinese who sought asylum behind the gates of the college. Vautrin exhausted herself defying the Japanese army and caring for the refugees after the siege ended in March 1938. She even helped the women locate husbands and sons who had been taken away by the Japanese soldiers. She taught destitute widows the skills required to make a meager living and provided the best education her limited sources would allow to the children in desecrated Nanking.
Finally suffering a nervous breakdown in 1940, Vautrin returned to the United States for medical treatment. One year later, she ended her own life. She considered herself a failure.
Hu bases her biography on Vautrin’s correspondence between 1919 and 1941 and on her diary, maintained during the entire siege, as well as on Chinese, Japanese, and American eyewitness accounts, government documents, and interviews with Vautrin’s family.
The Spanish cleric Bartolomé de Las Casas is a key figure in the history of Spain’s conquest of the Americas. Las Casas condemned the torture and murder of natives by the conquistadores in reports to the Spanish royal court and in tracts such as A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies (1552). For his unrelenting denunciation of the colonialists’ atrocities, Las Casas has been revered as a noble protector of the Indians and as a pioneering anti-imperialist. He has become a larger-than-life figure invoked by generations of anticolonialists in Europe and Latin America.
Separating historical reality from myth, Daniel Castro provides a nuanced, revisionist assessment of the friar’s career, writings, and political activities. Castro argues that Las Casas was very much an imperialist. Intent on converting the Indians to Christianity, the religion of the colonizers, Las Casas simply offered the natives another face of empire: a paternalistic, ecclesiastical imperialism. Castro contends that while the friar was a skilled political manipulator, influential at what was arguably the world’s most powerful sixteenth-century imperial court, his advocacy on behalf of the natives had little impact on their lives. Analyzing Las Casas’s extensive writings, Castro points out that in his many years in the Americas, Las Casas spent very little time among the indigenous people he professed to love, and he made virtually no effort to learn their languages. He saw himself as an emissary from a superior culture with a divine mandate to impose a set of ideas and beliefs on the colonized. He differed from his compatriots primarily in his antipathy to violence as the means for achieving conversion.
Reconstruction in the South is a much studies and yet little understood dark epoch in the region’s history; in many areas it was marked by such violence as to have been in all but name guerrilla warfare. Death and Cross Plains is the history of one such clash, and the story of one of its casualties – William Luke.
Luke, born in Ireland, was a former Canadian minister fleeing a checkered past and perhaps seeking to redeem himself by service to the black freedmen of northern Alabama. In 1869 he took a teaching post at Talladega College, the only school for blacks in the area. Later taking the position of schoolteacher to the black railroad workers near Talladega, Luke found himself enmeshed in the web of racial antagonisms, xenophobia, and partisan conflict rampant in much of the South.
Death at Cross Plains follows the tragic course of William Luke’s life and death and vividly depicts the hatreds and failures that plunged the South into its darkest days.
Barbara Kreiger’s intriguing narrative presents the account of Clorinda Minor, a charismatic American Christian woman whose belief in the Second Coming prompted her to leave a comfortable life in Philadelphia in 1851 and take up agriculture in Palestine.
After her disappointment in a failed prophecy that the End of Days would take place in October 1844, Mrs. Minor determined that the Holy Land was not yet adequately prepared for such an event and decided that it would be her mission to teach the poverty-stricken Jews of Palestine to work the soil. In this very American story, Mrs. Minor, like so many other pioneers of her day, looked to the land as her future.
Even as her mission was distinctly religious, her daily efforts were in the social realm. And although her work brought Jews and Arabs together, and her small farm was a unique settlement where Christians, Muslims, and Jews labored alongside one another, the events detailed in Divine Expectations had dramatic and tragic diplomatic and international repercussions.
With the deft touch of a novelist, Barbara Kreiger weaves the little-known story of Clorinda Minor into the larger context of the region and its history, presenting it in its charming eccentricity and its gripping reality.
The first Protestant mission was established in New Zealand in 1814, initiating complex political, cultural, and economic entanglements with Māori. Tony Ballantyne shows how interest in missionary Christianity among influential Māori chiefs had far-reaching consequences for both groups. Deftly reconstructing cross-cultural translations and struggles over such concepts and practices as civilization, work, time and space, and gender, he identifies the physical body as the most contentious site of cultural engagement, with Māori and missionaries struggling over hygiene, tattooing, clothing, and sexual morality. Entanglements of Empire is particularly concerned with how, as a result of their encounters in the classroom, chapel, kitchen, and farmyard, Māori and the English mutually influenced each other’s worldviews. Concluding in 1840 with New Zealand’s formal colonization, this book offers an important contribution to debates over religion and empire.
Faithful Unto Death
Becky Thacker University of Michigan Press, 2011 Library of Congress PS3620.H326F35 2011 | Dewey Decimal 813.6
Benzonia, Michigan, 1894: a sleepy Congregationalist community, dedicated to the education of hardworking and virtuous young people of both sexes and all races. Anna Spencer Thacker is the daughter of missionaries, a faithful wife, and mother of five, pious to a fault. She is suddenly stricken with a mysterious ailment that soon proves fatal. Was it truly an unfortunate illness? Or was it murder---or suicide?
Taking a true story of a murder in her own family, Becky Thacker has crafted a historical mystery novel whose cast of characters rapidly builds, including William Henry Thacker as deputy sheriff, deacon in his church, a kind man . . . but perhaps just a trifle too fond of the attractive young housekeeper; and Charlotte Spencer, the pretty missionary sister, almost saintly in her efforts to bring Jesus to the Armenians in the mountains of Turkey, though a bit prone to exaggeration. She could be a suspect---or the next target.
The children are Roy, 19: musical, a good student, but a little too wild for Benzonia; Ralph, 17: trying to shoulder the responsibilities of farm and family; and Lottie, 14: a talented young artist trying to take care of young Will and Josie. Faithful Unto Death provides a window into the daily lives of small-town Michiganders at the turn of the century wrapped up in a riveting whodunit.
Hawaiian Music in Motion explores the performance, reception, transmission, and adaptation of Hawaiian music on board ships and in the islands, revealing the ways both maritime commerce and imperial confrontation facilitated the circulation of popular music in the nineteenth century. James Revell Carr draws on journals and ships' logs to trace the circulation of Hawaiian song and dance worldwide as Hawaiians served aboard American and European ships. He also examines important issues like American minstrelsy in Hawaii and the ways Hawaiians achieved their own ends by capitalizing on Americans' conflicting expectations and fraught discourse around hula and other musical practices.
In Africa's Forest and Jungle is the memoir of Richard Henry Stone, a Civil War era Southern Baptist missionary, who served in what is now Nigeria during the late 1850s and again during the first years of the American Civil War. Stone published this work in 1899, when it became clear that age would prevent him from returning to Africa.
Stone served in Africa with his wife and successfully learned the Yoruba language. He was an intelligent, self-reflective, and reliable observer, making his works important sources of information on Yoruba society before the intervention of European colonialism. In Africa's Forest and Jungle is a rare account of West African culture, made all the more complete by the additional journal entries, letters, and photographs collected in this edition.
The Yaqui Indians managed to avoid assimilation during the Spanish colonization of Mexico. Even when mining interests sought to wrest Yaqui labor from the control of the Jesuits who had organized Indian society into an agricultural system, the Yaqui themselves sought primarily to ensure their continuing existence as a people.
More than a tale of Yaqui Indian resistance, Missionaries, Miners, and Indians documents the history of the Jesuit missions during a period of encroaching secularization. The Yaqui rebellion of 1740, analyzed here in detail, enabled the Yaqui to work for the mines without repudiating the missions; however, the erosion of the mission system ultimately led to the Jesuits’ expulsion from New Spain in 1767, and through their own perseverance, the Yaqui were able to bring their culture intact into the nineteenth century.
Edward E. Andrews Harvard University Press, 2013 Library of Congress BV2120.A53 2013 | Dewey Decimal 266.008996017124
As Protestantism expanded across the Atlantic, most evangelists were not Anglo-Americans but were members of the groups that missionaries were trying to convert. Native Apostles reveals the way Native Americans, Africans, and black slaves redefined Christianity and addressed the challenges of slavery, dispossession, and European settlement.
Long before oil interests shaped American interaction with the Middle East, the U.S. had a strong influence on the late Ottoman and post-Ottoman region. Covering the period from approximately 1800 to the 1970s, Hans-Lukas Kieser’s compelling Nearest East tells the story of this intimate, identity-building relationship between the U.S. and the Near East.
Kieser chronicles how American missionaries worked to implement their belief in Biblical millennialism, enlightened modernity, and a modern Zion-Israel. Millennialism was part of an American identity that constituted itself religiously in the interaction with and the representation of the “cradle of Zion.” As such, "going Near East" was—at least to American evangelical Protestants—in some ways more important than colonizing the American West. However, many Ottoman Muslims felt threatened by the American missionaries perceiving their successful institutions as an estranging challenge from the outside.
Measuring the long twisted road from the missionary Zion-builders of the early 19th century to the privileged US-Israeli partnership in the late 20th century, Nearest East looks carefully on both sides of the relationship. Kieser uses a wide range of Ottoman, Turkish, French, German and other sources, unfamiliar to most Anglophone readers, to tell this story that will appeal to historians of all stripes.
Originally published in 1982, James Clifford's analytical biography of Maurice Leenhardt (1878–1954)—missionary, anthropologist, founder of French Oceanic studies, historian of religion, and colonial reformer—received wide critical acclaim for its insight into the colonial history of anthropology. Drawing extensively on unpublished letters and journals, Clifford traces Leenhardt's life from his work as a missionary on the island of New Caledonia (1902–1926) to his subsequent return to Paris where he became an academic anthropologist at the École Practique des Hautes Études, where he followed Marcel Mauss and was succeeded in 1951 by Claude Lévi-Strauss. Clifford sees in Leenhardt's career a foreshadowing of contemporary anthropological concerns with reflexivity, cultural hybridity, and colonial and post-colonial entanglements.
Most Americans have little understanding of the relationship between religion and nationalism in the Middle East. They assume that the two are rooted fundamentally in regional history, not in the history of contact with the broader world. However, as Adam H. Becker shows in this book, Americans—through their missionaries—had a strong hand in the development of a national and modern religious identity among one of the Middle East's most intriguing (and little-known) groups: the modern Assyrians. Detailing the history of the Assyrian Christian minority and the powerful influence American missionaries had on them, he unveils the underlying connection between modern global contact and the retrieval of an ancient identity.
American evangelicals arrived in Iran in the 1830s. Becker examines how these missionaries, working with the “Nestorian” Church of the East—an Aramaic-speaking Christian community in the borderlands between Qajar Iran and the Ottoman Empire—catalyzed, over the span of sixty years, a new national identity. Instructed at missionary schools in both Protestant piety and Western science, this indigenous group eventually used its newfound scriptural and archaeological knowledge to link itself to the history of the ancient Assyrians, which in time led to demands for national autonomy. Exploring the unintended results of this American attempt to reform the Orient, Becker paints a larger picture of religion, nationalism, and ethnic identity in the modern era.
In the streets of Addis Ababa in 1977, shop-front posters illustrate Uncle Sam being strangled by an Ethiopian revolutionary, parliamentary leaders are executed, student protesters are gunned down, and Christian mission converts are targeted as imperialistic sympathizers. Into this world arrives sixteen-year-old Tim Bascom, whose missionary parents have brought their family from a small town in Kansas straight into Colonel Mengistu’s Marxist “Red Terror.” Here they plan to work alongside a tiny remnant of western missionaries who trust that God will somehow keep them safe.
Running to the Fire focuses on the turbulent year the Bascom family experienced upon traveling into revolutionary Ethiopia. The teenage Bascom finds a paradoxical exhilaration in living so close to constant danger. At boarding school in Addis Ababa, where dorm parents demand morning devotions and forbid dancing, Bascom bonds with other youth due to a shared sense of threat. He falls in love for the first time, but the young couple is soon separated by the politics that affect all their lives. Across the country, missionaries are being held under house arrest while communist cadres seize their hospitals and schools. A friend’s father is imprisoned as a suspected CIA agent; another is killed by raiding Somalis.
Throughout, the teenaged Bascom struggles with his faith and his role within the conflict as a white American Christian missionary’s child. Reflecting back as an adult, he explores the historical, cultural, and religious contexts that led to this conflict, even though in doing so he is forced to ask himself questions that are easier left alone. Why, he wonders, did he find such strange fulfillment in being young and idealistic in the middle of what was essentially a kind of holy war?
Swedish missionary Albin Johnson arrived in Alaska just before the turn of the twentieth century, thousands of miles from home and with just two weeks’ worth of English classes under his belt. While he intended to work among the Tlingit tribes of Yakutat, he found himself in a wave of foreign arrivals as migrants poured into Alaska seeking economic opportunities and the chance at a different life. While Johnson came with pious intentions, others imposed Western values and vices, leaving disease and devastation in their wake.
Seventeen Years in Alaska is Johnson’s eyewitness account of this tumultuous time. It is a captivating narrative of an ancient people facing rapid change and of the missionaries working to stem a corrupting tide. His journals offer a candid look at the beliefs and lives of missionaries, and they ultimately reveal the profound effect that he and other missionaries had on the Tlingit. Tracing nearly two decades of spiritual hopes and earthbound failures, Johnson’s memoir is a fascinating portrait of a rapidly changing world in one of the most far-flung areas of the globe.
At the dawn of the radio age in the 1920s, a settler-mystic living on northwest coast of British Columbia invented radio mind: Frederick Du Vernet—Anglican archbishop and self-declared scientist—announced a psychic channel by which minds could telepathically communicate across distance. Retelling Du Vernet’s imaginative experiment, Pamela Klassen shows us how agents of colonialism built metaphysical traditions on land they claimed to have conquered.
Following Du Vernet’s journey westward from Toronto to Ojibwe territory and across the young nation of Canada, Pamela Klassen examines how contests over the mediation of stories—via photography, maps, printing presses, and radio—lucidly reveal the spiritual work of colonial settlement. A city builder who bargained away Indigenous land to make way for the railroad, Du Vernet knew that he lived on the territory of Ts’msyen, Nisga’a, and Haida nations who had never ceded their land to the onrush of Canadian settlers. He condemned the devastating effects on Indigenous families of the residential schools run by his church while still serving that church. Testifying to the power of radio mind with evidence from the apostle Paul and the philosopher Henri Bergson, Du Vernet found a way to explain the world that he, his church and his country made.
Expanding approaches to religion and media studies to ask how sovereignty is made through stories, Klassen shows how the spiritual invention of colonial nations takes place at the same time that Indigenous peoples—including Indigenous Christians—resist colonial dispossession through stories and spirits of their own.
In The Turk in America, historian Justin McCarthy seeks to explain the historical basis for American prejudice towards Turks in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The volume focuses on fraudulent characterizations of Turks, mostly stemming from an antipathy in Europe and America toward non-Christians, and especially Muslims. Spanning one hundred and fifty years, this history explores the misinformation largely responsible for the negative stereotypes of Turks during this period.
Jacqueline Hansen Maggiore presents in this volume the biography of her lifelong friend Carol Piette, known throughout Chile and El Salvador as Sister Carla. Drawing from the memories of those who knew her and excerpts from her letters and diaries, Vessel of Clay chronicles Sister Carla’s extraordinary life, highlighting her dedication to the poor of Latin America but also revealing her struggles with self-doubt and emotional frailty. Vessel of Clay will appeal to both lay and religious readers interested in peace and social justice, spiritual formation and development, women’s issues, liberation theology, and mission service.