A Luminous Brotherhood: Afro-Creole Spiritualism in Nineteenth-Century New Orleans

Emily Suzanne Clark. Univ. of North Carolina, $34.95 (280p) ISBN 978-1-4696-2878-3
Clark challenges the assumption that spiritualism is a northern Protestant movement focused on deceased family members and removed from politics by focusing on New Orleans’s Cercle Harmonique. This small group of Afro-Creole Catholics kept meticulous records of their séances during the early years of Reconstruction. Visited by local martyrs, national heroes (including Jefferson, Washington, and John Brown), and international figures (notably Robespierre and Napoleon), the group actively sought to bring about what they called “the Idea”: brotherhood, harmony, and egalitarianism. A major step in progress towards that goal was the knowledge that spirits are not raced like bodies, as their spiritual visitors attested. Clark offers excellent context for understanding the social and political fights in New Orleans and fascinating details from their séance records to show how the group’s concern fit into political projects from the local to the transatlantic. Her chapter on the Cercle’s antimaterialist view offers stunning parallels to modern concerns for religious believers. The work will appeal to scholars of American race, religion, and Reconstruction and other dedicated readers interested in unusual and creative responses to the experience of being southern and black in the aftermath of the Civil War. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/11/2016
Release date: 09/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-1-4696-4565-0
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