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date: 18 April 2021

Race and Religion in the United Statesfree

  • Ryan P. JordanRyan P. JordanNational University


For centuries before the European colonization of North America, sectarian, ethnic, and racial discrimination were interrelated. The proscription of certain groups based on their biological or other apparently ingrained characteristics, which is one definition of racism, in fact describes much religious prejudice in Western history—even as the modern term “racism” was not used until the 20th century. An early example of the similarities between religious and racial prejudice can be seen in the case of anti-Semitism, where merely possessing “Jewish blood” made one inherently unassimilable in many parts of Europe for nearly a thousand years before the initial European conquest of the New World. Throughout Western history, religious values have been mobilized to dehumanize other non-Christian groups such as Muslims, and starting in the 16th century, religious justifications of conquest played an indispensable role in the European takeover of the Americas. In the culture of the 17th- and 18th-century British colonies, still another example of religious and racial hatred existed in the anti-Catholicism of the original Protestant settlers, and this prejudice was particularly evident with the arrival of Irish immigrants in the 19th century. In contemporary language, the Irish belonged to the Celtic “race” and one of the many markers of this race’s inherent inferiority was Catholicism—a religious system that was alternatively defined as non-Western, pagan, or irrational by many Anglo-Saxon Protestants, who similarly saw themselves as a different, superior race. In addition to the Irish, many other racial groups—most notably Native Americans—were defined as inferior based on their religious beliefs. Throughout much of early American history, the normative religious culture of Anglo-Protestantism treated groups ranging from African slaves to Asian or Middle Eastern immigrants as alternatively unequal, corrupt, subversive, or civically immature by virtue of their religious identity. Historians can see many examples of the supposedly dangerous religious attributes of foreigners—such as those of the Chinese in the late 19th century—as a basis for restricting immigration. Evangelical Protestant ideas of divine chosen-ness also influenced imperial projects launched on behalf of the United States. The ideology of Manifest Destiny demonstrates how religious differences could be mobilized to excuse the conquest and monitoring of foreign subjects in places such as Mexico or the Philippines. Anglo-Protestant cultural chauvinism held sway for much of American history, though since the mid-1900s, it can be said to have lost some of its power. Throughout its history, many racial or ethnic groups—such as Hispanic Americans, African-Americans, or Asian Americans in the United States have struggled to counter the dominant ethnic or racial prejudice of the Anglo-Protestant majority by recovering alternative religious visions of nationhood or cultural solidarity. For groups such as the 20th-century Native American Church, or the African American Nation of Islam, religious expression formed an important vehicle to contest white supremacy.

Anti-Catholicism and Whiteness

The culture of anti-Catholicism for British colonists dovetailed with the idea of Britain as God’s chosen people. For white settlers who were overwhelmingly Protestant, they viewed Protestantism as the necessary buttress for the peculiar liberty enjoyed by Britons. Anti-Catholicism, a set of beliefs in Britain forged from centuries of conflict with France and Spain, led Anglo-Protestants to see devotees to the Pope as inherently incapable of self-government. Anti-Catholicism was also connected to the racial conceptions of Anglo-Saxons who viewed many other phenotypically white groups—such as “the Mediterraneans” or “the Celts”—as unequal to Britons.

In the colonial period, British settlers were fed a steady diet of literature that referred to Catholics as slaves, and that connected social backwardness with Catholic nations. In the 1760s, John Adams, in his famous Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law referred to Catholics as enthralled in “ignorance, extreme poverty, and dependence . . . in short, civil and political slavery.” For revolutionary Gad Hitchcock, those living in oppressive regimes like Catholic France and Spain, “not only sink below the primitive standard of humanity . . . they become stupid, debased in spirit, indolent and groveling, indifferent to all valuable improvement and hardly capable of any.”1

The ideals of Anglo-Saxon or British exceptionalism influenced the political culture of the newly formed United States after 1776. In the United States, the tropes used against Catholics were extended to include numerous others in conflict with white American Protestants. Groups such as Native Americans, Muslims, or African slaves were often characterized as suffering from a kind of civic immaturity or lack of disciplined intellect that disqualified them as equal American citizens. In the early national period, an important example of the interconnectedness of religious and racial modes of difference can be seen in these words of Alexander Campbell, founder of the “Christian” movement: “every good thing in society originates in, and emanates from, true religion and true philosophy.” Such “true religion,” for Campbell, was synonymous with a “Protestant republicanism” that created “the superior civilization and force of character of the Protestant Anglo-Saxon race.”2

In the mid-19th century, the resurgence of nativism with groups including the American Party once again encouraged Anglo Protestants to see mostly “Celtic” Catholics as inferior and therefore unassimilable. Samuel Morse, one of the inventors of the telegraph, authored Foreign Conspiracy against the Liberty of the United States in 1835. In this pamphlet, Morse referred to the mostly Irish Catholic immigrants coming ashore as “slaves in body and mind, whipped and disciplined by priests.” Writing in support of the American Party in 1856, Anna Ella Carroll accused the Catholic Church of trying “to bring man down to the animal scale” and she described the church as advocating the same paganism as “the negro [who] prostrates himself before a serpent . . . or the idolator [who] falls down before a statue.” The popularity of the American Party in the 1850s coupled with the persistent efforts of the public school system to “Americanize” Catholics further speaks to the sectarian prejudice of many in the 19th-century United States.3

Anti-Catholicism only slowly lost its power in American political and social life in the 20th century. The popularity of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, in addition to the anti-papal rhetoric of the Prohibition Party in the same decade demonstrated the lingering presence of Catholic prejudice. In the 1940s, Hugo Black, the author of the majority decision for the Supreme Court in Everson v. Board of Education4 (ostensibly about the separation of church and state), articulated the idea of religious freedom while also having been a long time Klan member who also belonged to a strongly nativist Protestant Masonic Lodge. Continued fears of Catholic political influence could also be seen during the presidential election of 1960, when many questioned whether John F. Kennedy would be an agent of the Pope if chosen as commander-in-chief.

Anti-Semitism and Jews in the United States

Significant debate exists among scholars regarding the relative power of anti-Semitism in the United States—particularly in comparison to the anti-Semitism of Europe. But as with other non-Protestant ethnic groups, those of Jewish heritage were often characterized by Anglo-Protestants as possessing certain negative characteristics that disqualified them from full political and social equality with Americans. The customary European stereotypes of Jews as an unassimilable, biological group hostile to Christian values therefore continued to hold sway in the British colonies and early American republic.

In the colonies, religious tests barred Jews from voting and holding public office, in addition to making it difficult for anyone identified as Jewish to belong to certain professions. These laws were put in place even as the Jewish population of the colonies likely numbered less than 1,000 for most of the 17th and early 18th centuries. After the Revolution, while most states lifted restrictions regarding Jewish political participation, Rhode Island, North Carolina, and New Hampshire officially maintained language in their constitutions proscribing Jews in some way until the mid-19th century (even as their enforcement was uneven).

With a rising influx of Jewish immigrants in the mid-19th century came more examples of anti-Semitism. In 1862, General Ulysses Grant issued General Order Number 11 aimed against Jewish traders in the South supposedly involved in the black market in southern cotton. However, President Lincoln quickly rescinded the order. Elsewhere in the late 19th century, Jews were not seen as social equals to other Americans and were often subjected to housing discrimination. The Populist movement was known for its rhetoric against Jews in finance, and the revival of the Ku Klux Klan in the early 20th century likewise blamed Jews—along with disparate groups such as Communists, Catholics, and atheists—for subverting the American republic.

Historians note an increase in anti-Semitism as more Jews arrived in the United States between roughly 1880 and 1920. This increase paralleled developments in Europe such as the pogroms of Eastern Europe and the Dreyfus affair in France. The growth of American anti-Semitism can be seen with the case of Leo Frank who in 1906 was accused of murdering a young teenage girl, Mary Phagan, who worked at the factory he managed (and that was owned by his uncle) in Atlanta. After a long and drawn out trial with an inconclusive result, Frank was lynched by angry Georgians for receiving too lenient a sentence. The Populist politician, Tom Watson typified the anti-Semitic tone surrounding the trial when he complained about a “Jewish conspiracy” to commute Frank’s sentence, since—in Watson’s words—“no aristocrat of their race [meaning Jews] should die for the death of a working-class Gentile.”5 Within a few years of the Frank case, Sigmund Livingston founded the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in 1913 to combat instances of anti-Semitism in American politics and society. In the years that followed, the ADL led attacks against the reactionary views of public leaders such as Henry Ford and Father Coughlin, who often spoke of international Jewish conspiracies working against the interests of the United States. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, public opinion polls revealed that a large number of Americans had negative views of Jews, and this fact likely explains the lack of aid for Jews suffering under the Nazis, such as the Jewish passengers of the SS St. Louis, who were denied entry into the United States in 1939 after escaping Germany.

Only slowly over the course of the 20th century were customary restrictions against Jews repealed. The quota system limiting Jewish admission to Ivy League schools was finally done away with by 1970, and most housing covenants against Jews had also ended by that time.

Native Americans and Native Religion

Many Anglo-Protestants in the American colonial and early national period justified purging racial others by defining them as heathenish, sinful, or simply evil. Men such as Cotton Mather questioned whether any Native American, by virtue of his or her ingrained character traits, could ever become fully Christian, and therefore equal to British settlers. The fact that Puritans slaughtered many Native American Christian converts during King Philip’s War in the 1670s tragically demonstrated this Anglo-Protestant view. Later, in the 18th century many Moravian Indians in Pennsylvania would be killed by whites with the justification that, as one settler put it, “it is much easier for the most civilized to turn savage than for any Indian to be civilized” by adopting Christianity. As other white colonists continued their push westward into the forests of North America, they repeated ideas about land use and Native American obsolescence that had been mainstays of Puritan providentialism since the 17th century. To many colonial Protestants, economic progress, political stability, and religious liberty blended together to negate Native American rights to their own land. John Cushing explained how God had cleared the land for Anglo-Protestants: “Our fathers were few and feeble and would have fallen pretty to the savages, if God had not restrained them.” This “howling wilderness” could then be free for “liberty, civil and religious, the greatest boon of a temporal nature.”6

Natives themselves understood the connection between white man’s religion and temporal political power and sought to use their own tribal religious ideas to counter white expansion. Various revitalization movements, led by Indian prophets such as that of the Seneca prophet Handsome Lake or the Shawnee prophet Tecumseh attempted to recover a native spirituality that could do battle with the religion of the white man. These native leaders could formulate a sense of sacred time that privileged red men over white and that could inspire natives to reject all aspects of European culture as a deadly and dangerous perversion, a compromise with evil. In the late-19th century, the deposed leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes in Washington, Chief Seattle, was recorded as saying that “the white man’s God” does not love native people, or else he would protect them. “How can your God become our God and renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning to greatness?” Men like Chief Seattle were increasingly alarmed at the attempt made by many white reformers in the Indian Boarding School movement to efface native culture, partly in religious terms. In these boarding schools, such as the Carlisle School run by Richard Henry Pratt, natives were taught that Christian civilization surpassed all others and native children learned that “to succeed and make our people who are last, among the first, we must carry to them Christian knowledge, Christian example, and Christian civilization.” But the large number of student deaths at these boarding schools alarmed many natives, revealing white culture and religion to be literally toxic for young among many tribes.7

By the late 19th century, natives increasingly advocated a return to pre-Christian religious ways as an important attempt to challenge the white encroachment in the Far West. The Ghost Dance rituals practiced by many Native Americans in the late 19th century represented an effort to recapture the spiritual power lost with the arrival of the white man. Federal agent Stanton Fisher, stationed at Fort Hall, Idaho, in 1889, complained about the Ghost Dance rituals among many western natives as making them “insolent and sullen,” convinced “that all white men will soon die and that all the dead Indians will be resurrected.” Many Army leaders felt that Native religion did not deserve protection from the First Amendment, since it was “barbarous,” “savage” as well as “seditious”: by 1882 the U.S. Department of the Interior began to prosecute those natives who practiced the Ghost Dance in public. But the decision of the Interior Department came even as President Grant recognized the ideal of religious freedom among different white denominations in the West for evangelization among Indians. Religious freedom at this time was intended only to buttress Christianity against the non-Christian, and demonstrated how the liberal political sphere reinforced white racial supremacy over Native culture.8

While many Native Americans practice variations of Christianity, traditional religion has survived in the 20th century, as can be seen with groups such as the Sun Dance, Feather Religion, or the Longhouse Religion. The largest native religious group, however is the Native American Church—often referred to as devotees of peyotism. Originating in the early 20th century in Oklahoma, this religion revolves around the sacramental use of the entheogen, peyote. However, in 1990 the Supreme Court seemed to attack the rights of Indians to use the drug, in the decision for Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith.9 In response, Congress later modified the 1978 American Indian Religious Freedom Act to clarify that peyote could be used by members of Indian tribes for “bona fide traditional ceremonial purposes.” In recent decades, Congress has also ruled to protect Native American sacred sites with legislation such as the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990.

African Americans, Christianity, and Black Nationalism

Some African slaves arrived at the colonies having embraced some form of Christianity, often Roman Catholicism. This followed a long line of relatively successful efforts made by Spanish and Portuguese missionaries to convince Africans of the need to convert to Christianity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Not long after the arrival of large numbers of African slaves, however, British colonists learned the problematic nature of these conversions to Catholicism, from the perspective of masters trying to maintain control over a servile labor class. In 1739, Catholic slaves in Stono, South Carolina, chose to revolt on September 9, a Congolese feast day honoring the Virgin Mary that symbolized a regeneration of this world. These slaves also looked favorably upon the Spanish in Florida and tried to escape into the hands of England’s political and religious enemy in order to gain freedom. The exact origins of African American conversion to Protestantism are obscure, though the Great Awakening of the 1730s along with late-18th-century Methodist missionaries played an important role in expanding the number of Protestants among freed and enslaved blacks. By 1776, several African American churches came into existence on the eastern seaboard, such as the First African Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia, and the First Baptist Church of Petersburg, Virginia—both organized by free blacks, often as a result of discriminatory policies of white churches. By 1810, numerous other black churches existed, most notably the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the First African Baptist Church in Boston, and the Mother African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in New York City. Many, if not all, early black churches protested prevailing racial prejudice found throughout the young nation, and the idea of black Christianity as inherently seditious remained the opinion of many whites in the early national period—even as many free black congregations could be described as politically conservative.

The fact that black revolutionaries—such David Walker and Nat Turner—often appealed to religion in their calls for black independence only furthered the impression that black religion was a radical and dangerous force within a majority white, slaveholding republic. For his part, Walker, author of An Appeal to the Coloured Citizens of the World (1829) warned whites that “God will not suffer us to be oppressed” and “that unless you speedily alter your course, you and your country are gone! For God Almighty will tear up the very face of the Earth!” In response to the threat of religiously inspired slave insurrection (such as the Turner revolt of 1831), southern whites began to crack down on the religious expression of African Americans. In South Carolina, for example, white police forces spied on prayer meetings in African churches, tried to observe any and all religious services on plantations (including those at Christmas time), and even tried to limit the number of slaves attending funerals, for fear that the burial of the dead might be a cover for insurrection plots.10

In the antebellum period, American Christianity was characterized by acquiescence and in some cases strong support for the institution of slavery. Many American Christians along with their clerical leaders referenced biblical justifications for slavery. Perhaps the most significant of these was the so-called “curse of Ham,” where slave owners maintained that God had cursed those with black skin. Other white Protestant leaders, such as Robert Dabney of the Presbyterian Church and Richard Furman of the South Carolina Baptist Convention pointed to numerous biblical references where slaves and servants were exhorted to remain dutiful to their masters as proof that God stood on the side of slaveholders.

However, while most whites feared subversive elements within black churches, Protestant Christianity was also the inspiration for a biracial abolitionist movement that saw its start during the Revolutionary War and continued until the abolition of slavery in 1865. Whites and blacks worked together in the American Anti-Slavery Society (even as African Americans often were not treated equally within the organization) and reformers like Frederick Douglass combated racial prejudice within white denominations. Douglass, along with many other white reformers, supported “comeouter” Protestant denominations such as the American Baptist Free Mission Society, the Wesleyan Methodist Connection, and the Anti-Slavery Friends that were devoted entirely to the cause of black civil rights and abolitionism. While a minority, these reformers revealed a strain of liberal Christianity that would inspire later generations of civil rights activists.

However, the dominant Christian culture of the United States largely assented to the prevailing racial discrimination against African Americans throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The Fourteenth Amendment’s promise to extend civil rights to former slaves failed to become a reality in post‒Civil War America and many black Christians in the South were on notice to avoid criticizing the Jim Crow system or face the racial terrorism provided by church burnings and lynchings. Many white ministers, such as the editor of the Methodist paper Christian Advocate in 1893 asserted that the numerous blacks being lynched in the South “were not the old slaves who watched over their master families . . . but were a new generation, intoxicated by a liberty which they have not known how to use.” In the North, white prejudice toward black spirituality also existed in many quarters. In the 1870s, Austin Phelps, a professor at Andover Theological Seminary wrote of “pitiable colored Churches” where the congregants “corrupted by degradations only the slave knows were poisoned by fetish worship.” Charles Carroll, in his popular novel The Negro-A Beast gave voice to the view that blacks had no souls to save, and since they did not belong to the human race, missionaries should think twice believing that anyone of African descent could be uplifted by the civilizing agents of Christianity. The late 19th century saw an increase in American missionaries working in conjunction with British and European colonizers in Africa. White missionaries often articulated the view that Western Christianity had the power to make “barbarous and uncivilized races [disappear] before the presence of the civilized,” and the renewed power of transnational Protestant institutions often buttressed the new and expanded imperial endeavors of Anglo-Saxons both in the United States and Britain.11

The rhetoric of the revived Ku Klux Klan throughout the United States also demonstrated the cultural power of Christianity in defense of white supremacy. The use of burning crosses is one example of the connection between Christianity and white supremacy and was inspired by the novel, The Clansmen published by the North Carolina Baptist minister Thomas Dixon, in 1905. The early 20th century also saw numerous coordinated attacks on the black communities in Atlanta (1906), St. Louis (1917), Omaha (1919), Chicago (1919), and Tulsa (1921). In nearly all of these cases, white Christian ministers could be found condemning so-called “negro criminality.” Historians of several of these riots noted how several white ministers preached to their congregations regarding the dangers of black political power as well.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, various strains of black Christianity nonetheless flourished in the urban environment of the North. African Methodist Episcopal minister, Henry McNeal Turner openly challenged white clerical support for white racial supremacy. George Baker, who later called himself Father Divine, established the Peace Mission in New York, an interracial organization that provided important social services during the Great Depression.

Other groups of African Americans confronted the racism endemic to American society in the early 20th century by encouraging differing forms of Black Nationalism. Timothy Drew, founder of the Moorish Science Temple of America, is noted for his belief that Islam was a black religion and that African Americans should be seen as “Moorish-Americans.” Marcus Garvey, while not himself a religious leader, nonetheless encouraged greater interest in Pan-Africanism, which did influence many other African American Muslim and Rastafarian movements in the United States.

The Nation of Islam, founded in July 1930 by Wallace Fard Muhammad sought to put blacks on the road to “self independence and a higher civilization and culture than they had previously experienced.”12 The organization later called for a separate black nation and believed in the superiority of black people. Under the leadership of Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, the movement gained national attention in the 1960s as a militant alternative to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). From the early 1950s, groups such as the SCLC, as well as the African Methodist Episcopal Church (and others) had organized bus boycotts and took part in other peaceful strategies to combat the Jim Crow system of the South. King was also able to mobilize white support in his efforts to change the status of blacks in the United States. While King was noted for his appeal to a common American heritage of individual rights when arguing on behalf of civil rights, he also mobilized the biblical story of Exodus in discussing the sins of the American Republic. King’s use of Exodus positioned African Americans as an oppressed nation-within-a nation that would one day find liberation, even as King’s methods were nonviolent.

In the 21st century, African American churches continue to be diverse in theological outlook and political orientation. By no means do all churches see themselves as engaged solely in the civil rights struggle. However, Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that Sunday morning in America was the most segregated hour in the week still holds true, partly as evidence of the unique culture of African Americans. But it also speaks to continued racial division in the United States. As recently as 2008, the problematic relationship of black Christianity to the rest of the nation resurfaced in discussions of President Obama’s membership in the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, headed by the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Wright, an outspoken critic of many aspects of American society made intemperate remarks against Zionists which led President Obama to distance himself from Wright’s church.

Mexican Americans, Catholicism, and Hispanophobia

The 19th-century belief in America’s providential destiny to dispossess other races of land provides another example of the connection between religious and racial modes of difference. John L. O’Sullivan’s 1839 discussion “of the worship of the most high” dovetailed with a belief that American religious freedom needed to be one of the gifts bestowed upon the “disorderly house” of Mexico. The rhetoric of Manifest Destiny often turned imperial conquest into spiritual regeneration. Men like O’Sullivan excused an invasion of Mexico in the name of progress and mouthed familiar anti-Catholic diatribes about the backward religious attributes of Mexicans. The Philadelphia Daily Sun in its 1846 support for an aggressive foreign policy against Mexico portrayed Mexican Catholics as in need of liberation from religious bondage: “if we look towards Mexico, we are menaced by eight millions of people . . . steeped in the worst of all superstitions, and slaves to the tyranny of monks.” The paper then termed it only natural that Americans would want to diffuse “our own system of government on every enslaved people,” a system that included “the right to worship God according to their own conscience.”13

After annexation, many Anglo-Protestant politicians, such as those in California, passed Protestant Sabbatarian legislation prohibiting many aspects of Spanish culture, be they prize fights, horse races, or bull fighting on the Sabbath. Anglo-Protestants also passed temperance legislation which was interpreted as an attack at least in part on the use of spirits in Hispanic holidays. The bitter invective of Yankee Protestantism could be seen in the words of one Protestant minister in the 1850s in Los Angeles. James Woods referred to horse racing on the Sabbath as “the fruits of popery—the only religion known among the Spaniards of this region . . . the men are a dark complexioned set with darker minds and morals.”14

The further Anglo-Americans encroached on Latin America—either by territorial conquest or commercial contact—the more Latin Americans themselves complained about the limitations of Yankee Protestant culture. The Liberal Mexican newspaper, El Siglo, strongly denounced the “Protestant, calculating, and businesslike” Yankee culture personified by Polk, since it lacked much respect for other cultures, and his view was echoed by many throughout the Catholic countries increasingly dealing with American incursions. But the imperialist push continued as Americans embarked on their first attempt at formal overseas empire in the 1890s, and they continued to highlight the religious and racial differences in Hispanic countries. For example, in 1899, the Outlook hoped that the American government would extend all of the blessings of local government embodied in the American constitution to the Philippines, including what the paper termed “the American Church,” particularly as the “Spanish” church had taught nothing “but disrespect for the law.” A liberalized understanding of the relationship between believers and the state embodied in the “American Church” had much to teach the rest of the world, even as the paper admitted that the lesson of “self-government” was not easily taught: “it took eight centuries of conflict in England, and two of privation and peril in America” in order for Anglo-Saxons to develop an “ideal” social and political state. Other editorialists felt that only the strong arm of American military power could aid in the social improvement of the Philippine islands. An editorial in the Woman’s Journal hoped that “medieval Christianity, Mohammedianism, [and] heathenism” would go the way of misguided insurgents such as the 17th-century Native American “king Philip, or Sitting Bull, or Nat Turner” who tried to stop “the progress of mankind.”15

As had been the case with Catholics and the Mexican invasion, the American Catholic community in the late 19th century expressed varying degrees of opposition to the occupation of former Spanish colonies such as the Philippines and Puerto Rico. Archbishop John Ireland expressed concern over the future of Catholic Church property in the Philippines islands after noting how American soldiers proudly sent home Catholic vestments from a church they had ransacked during fighting. Ireland also noted the hypocrisy of Americans trying to end the church and state union in the acquired territory of Puerto Rico while an unnamed Protestant General played a role in establishing a Protestant church in Puerto Rico in the name of the U.S. government. Ireland hoped that American military and political leaders would make it clear to local Catholics that they had no intention of disturbing them in the exercise of their faith. Other Catholic leaders suspected that “secularization” in the Philippines in fact meant Protestantization particularly in the public schools. As had been the concern with the public school movement in cities such as New York and Philadelphia, Catholics believed that the teachers employed and textbooks used would advance hostility to Catholicism, while at the same time removing from the students’ crucifixes or other elements of Catholic culture. Some American missionaries, such as Alice Byram Condict made no effort to hide her disdain for the friars on the islands, and believed that Protestant missions needed to be established, “in the spirit of Bible liberty” so that Philippinos could learn about the “liberty of conscience” free from the constraints of what she termed the “medieval” society around them. Catholics therefore had reason to believe that occupation and secularization would mean some kind of informal support for Protestant missionaries, given the past experience of British military conquest leading to the establishment of Protestant missions elsewhere in East Asia.16

In the 20th century, as immigration from Mexico increased, various Mexican American groups began to fight for equal rights and better economic conditions in the American Southwest. Many Catholic leaders struggled against the abuses of farmworkers, and the American Catholic Church created the Bishops Ad Hoc Committee on Farm Labor in 1969, an organization that played a significant role in improving the lives of its poorer Mexican American congregants. The Catholic faith also greatly influenced Cesar Chavez’s fasts and pilgrimages on behalf of the United Farm Workers from the 1960s until his death in 1993.

With the growth of the Chicano movement in the 1960s, thousands of Mexican Americans gravitated toward the Mexicayotl religion, which involves the rediscovery of various aspects of pre-Hispanic Aztec philosophy. Indigenous religious influences can be found elsewhere in the Chicano movement. For example, the Plan Espiritual de Aztlan (Spiritual Plan of Aztlan), a 1969 document adopted by Rodolfo Gonzalez’s Crusade for Justice in Denver, Colorado, called on Mexican Americans to identify with the “people of the sun” in an attempt to counter Anglo-American cultural and political hegemony.

Asians Americans and Asian Religion

Traditionally a tiny minority in the United States, early Asian immigrants practicing a non-Christian religion included the Sze Yap company of Buddhists in San Francisco in 1853, and scattered numbers of Hindus in the late 19th century—most of whom were non-Indian followers of men like the Swami Vivekananda, who spoke to the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.

Antipathy toward Chinese Buddhists (along with most other aspects of Chinese culture) can be seen in the debate over the permanent exclusion of Chinese immigrants to the United States, starting in the 1870s. During hearings in Congress, several individuals who testified went to great lengths to explain the superiority of “American” or “Western” religion over the oppressive “pagan worship” of the Chinese. Even defenders of Chinese immigration, such as the Reverend Augustus Loomis, a leading American missionary to China, could not help but conceive of American citizenship as being mainly limited to what he termed the “Christianized Chinamen who make good citizens of this republic,” and should not be placed in the hand of just any “heathen” emigrant from east Asia. Such individuals had not been properly instructed in American culture, and for Loomis, Protestant churches represented some of the most important conduits for that instruction.17

Those who, unlike Loomis, opposed any further Chinese immigration—such as onetime California Attorney General Frank Pixley—often made clear how American “religion” was one and the same with a kind of providentialist nationalism that limited American citizenship to whites. Pixley spoke not as an evangelical leader, but rather as a concerned American voicing concerns he saw as indicative of the “American” majority of California, when he proclaimed the Chinese a “superstitious . . . idolatrous” people who did not practice what he termed “our religion.” When Pixley was asked during the 1877 investigations to define the phrase “our religion,” the San Francisco representative informed Congress that the “American” religion claimed the providential right of the white race to live on the North American continent, and that God had commanded that other weaker races, such as the Native Americans be displaced by this stronger race. As for the Chinese, since they are “not a favored people they are not permitted to steal from us what we robbed the American savage of.”18

In response to the prevailing religious prejudice of Protestant Americans, there was at least one important defense of Chinese religious culture entitled “Why I am a Heathen,” appearing in the North American Review in 1887. Its author, Wong Chin Foo, sought to counter the arguments of Yan Phou Lee, who had earlier published the article explaining the need for the Chinese to embrace Christianity as a superior social and cultural system. Wong reminded the supposedly civilized Christian missionaries of all of the ways in which an overly individualistic, selfish, and materialistic society was inferior to an ancient civilization, like that of the Chinese, which possessed a far stronger communitarian ethic. Wong also compared the “heathen” in China favorably against the white laborers in New York City who were forced to “elect those who betray them” through machine politics. “How is this better than the disfranchised Asiatic peasantry?” asked Wong. As for the American missionaries seeking to bring a higher civilization to the Chinese, Wong highlighted the narrow parochialism of the men and women who traveled around the world damning souls, complaining of others “semi-barbarism,” all the while failing to understand anything about the religion of Confucius or Buddha. Wong found missionaries constantly exaggerating the “backwardness” of Chinese peasants as a way of furthering their own careers or interests. These arguments, however, did little to prevent Congress from reapproving anti-immigration statutes against the Chinese in the years ahead.19

At around the same time, Anglo-Protestant antipathy toward an “Asiatic” religion can also be seen in the legal discussion of polygamy in the 19th century, most of which related to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), who were themselves European-American (and who also barred African Americans from membership in their faith.) The Latter Day Saints were essentially chased out of the United States in the 1840s, but the United States caught up to them with the acquisition of territory from Mexico by 1848. Now as subjects of the American government, the attachment of the Mormons to polygamy marked the Latter Day Saints as an un-American institution. By the end of the century, the Supreme Court weighed in on the racial threats posed by Mormons to American religious freedom; indeed one of the most significant Supreme Court cases of the 19th century addressing the wall of separation between church and state, Reynolds v. United States,20 denied First Amendment protection to Mormon polygamy by declaring that polygamy was a feature of “Asiatic and African people.” The justices reminded the Mormons that those who disestablished religion in Virginia did not intend for the “patriarchal principle” inherent in polygamy to leave people in the “fetters . . . of stationary despotism.” The Court also explained its distaste for the inclusion of polygamy under the protection of the First Amendment by connecting Mormon polygamy to the “uncivilized” case of a Hindu woman who believed it was “her duty to burn herself upon the funeral pile of her dead husband.” The first discussion of the meaning of the separation of church and state as it applied to federal power over states (or territories) mobilized familiar Anglo-Protestant conceptions of religious and racial difference when addressing certain people’s unfitness for the legal protection of religious freedom.21

During discussions regarding the assimilability of Japanese immigrants living in Hawaii and California in the 20th century, repeated references were made to an ineluctable difference residing in their different religious cultures. And when one Japanese-born American, Takao Ozawa, tried to explain why he qualified as worthy of naturalization—even though he fell outside of the accepted racial categories for naturalization (white, African, Native American), his plea fell on deaf ears. Ozawa reminded legal authorities of the various ways in which he and his family had assimilated to American values, including the fact that belonged to an “American Church,” which in this case meant Protestant. Nonetheless his claims for citizenship were denied. In another case, that of Bhagat Singh Thind, the Supreme Court denied Thind’s attempts to become naturalized because his Hinduism supposedly made him unassimilable. Significantly, many contemporary racial theorists argued that people like Thind were Caucasian, therefore qualifying as “white” under the terms of the 1790 naturalization statute. But it appears that Thind’s “religious” affiliation, not his “race” disqualified him as an “American.” Within American legal institutions, then, powerful assumptions still reigned regarding the unfitness of foreign immigrants not merely based on race but also on religion.

During World War II, the entire leadership of the largely Japanese Buddhist Mission of North America, founded by Japanese immigrants in 1899 in San Francisco, was sent to various camps in the American West. Many Buddhists hid or destroyed butsudans (home altars) or other non-Christian religious material for fear of reprisal from other Americans. However, in at least some camps, Buddhists were allowed to practice their religion. At the Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah, leaders of the Buddhist Mission adopted the name Buddhist Churches of America in 1944. This organization petitioned the U.S. government to provide Buddhist chaplains to the all-Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, but the government refused. Buddhism was not recognized as a religion by the U.S. military until 1987, when Buddhist chaplains were admitted into the U.S. Armed Forces.

Muslims and Islam

A negligible number of Muslims from Eastern Europe, Africa, and the Middle East lived in the United States from colonial times to the early 20th century, and only recently has the number of Muslims even approached 1 percent of the U.S. population. Yet the imaginary of the Islamic Other has born a similarity to other forms of racial difference throughout American history, and gives insight into the limits of American religious freedom.

Early examples of distrust of Islam within American culture can be found during Thomas Jefferson’s administration (1801‒1809) and his dealings with North African Muslims. At that time, the United States addressed a challenge to its national sovereignty from the Barbary States of North Africa, particularly Algiers, who repeatedly “enslaved” white mariners or other Westerners. The crisis in foreign policy inspired numerous captivity narratives that engaged the American reading public in the late 18th and early 19th century—often representing bestselling books for certain years. Such narratives drew on the long-standing Anglo-American cultural tropes of Turkish or North African barbarity, tyranny, and backwardness. Principally, the very fact that the United States was a slaveholding republic was rarely mentioned in the narratives’ fierce denunciation of white slavery and was not alluded to as it might potentially blunt the force of a damning discussion regarding the backwardness of North Africa. The fact that the most popular Algerian captivity narratives explicitly avoided that connection is not surprising. Westerners, Americans included, by assuming there was nothing but poverty, criminality, or oppression in North Africa, as well as by ignoring what could be seen as similar shortcomings in their own culture, could more easily justify cultural or economic transformation in similar areas around the world, as well as on the North American continent.

Many of these popular accounts of North African Islam revived old fears that American religious liberty might be undermined by foreign powers such as these Muslim potentates. Mathew Carey, the popular Jeffersonian newspaper editor linked the tyranny of the Barbary “piratical states” with the horrors of the Spanish “conquerors of Mexico and Peru,” as well as with the murderer of 100,000 Protestants by the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in the 16th century. Over the course of the 19th century, many Anglo-American writers exoticized Islam in similar ways as they did Catholicism: the religion was seen as both overly dogmatic, but also influenced by mere superstition. Muslims invented and supposedly encouraged the use of opium, according to many contemporary accounts, even as they might be overly scrupulous in observing fasts or other works to prove their holiness. The desire to portray Islam as unbalanced therefore lent power to those who saw the religion as inimical to the social and political system of American—read Protestant—religious liberty.22

The politicians most involved in the Barbary Wars, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson articulated a connection between the religious backwardness of the Algerians and the tyrannical Anglican establishment in Britain at the time of America’s independence. This is an important context in which to understand the Tripoli Treaty of 1797, whose authors, when countering the use of “Allah” in Algerian diplomatic correspondence, stated how the United States was not a Christian state. The wording of the Tripoli Treaty is an example of the secular ideology at the heart of the early American nation, yet when placed in a cultural context, it is clear that such a declaration did not prevent many Americans from understanding the Barbary contest through the lens of a familiar battle between good Anglo-American Protestantism and bad religious-political tyrannies such as Catholicism or Islam. For contemporary political leaders, American freedoms grew out of a Protestant heritage and were therefore still linked to a certain degree of religious particularism.

The most popular Algerian captivity narrative of this period was that of “Mrs. Maria Martin.” Although largely regarded as an invented narrative based on earlier accounts of “white slaves” in Tripoli, the narrative continued to follow in the tradition of the numerous and popular Indian captivity narratives of the colonial period. Martin focused repeatedly on the manner in which Christians were put to death by “Mahometans” if those Christians failed to either become or remain in the Muslim fold: if the Christians apostatize, “they are burned or roasted alive, or else thrown down from the top of the city walls, upon iron hooks, where they are caught by different parts of the body, according as they happen to fall, and sometimes expire in the greatest torments.” But more than show the cruelty of Muslims, Martin repeats the oft-reported fact that even women would remain indefinitely as captives unless they “renounce Christianity and embrace the religion of Mahomet.” Never thinking twice, Martin—and those Westerners who were able to help her—reject the prospect of Martin’s conversion to Islam and work tirelessly to ferry her to a “Christian nation.” In this context, Americans rediscovered their cultural connection to Christianity through the oppression of Muslim autocrats; the focus in these narratives on the barbarity of this Muslim other reinforced the connection all Americans have with some type of Christian, Protestant culture.23

Through contacts and military assistance from the British, numerous American ministers represented the power of transnational Protestantism throughout the Middle East and North Africa beginning in the late 1800s. By the 1870s, Henry H. Jessup, a Presbyterian minister working in Syria, looked confidently to the day when the “politico-religious” system of Islam—a corrupt religious system similar to Catholicism and Mormonism—would be overcome by Anglo-American Protestantism. Where “morality is divorced from religion,” and where the family is destroyed “through polygamy and concubinage,” the “Anglo-Saxon Christian family” would supplant superior institutions for the health of the family and the nation.24 When speaking of Africa, William B. Hodgson found an unceasing “conflict of Christianity with Mohammedanism, of civilization and semi-barbarism” and congratulated the French “for introducing a higher civilization” through their conquest of the “empire of Morocco,” though he lamented how bloody that process was. Rather, Hodgson hoped that missionaries might be able to accomplish more wholesome ends seemingly without military force, though he never acknowledged the interwoven nature of military and missionary expansion. Along the Atlantic coast of the continent, in Hodgson’s account it was the more innocuous “Christian missionaries and Christian commerce” that “are teaching this barbarous land a holier religion and a more humanized life.” Hodgson believed he saw in this change further evidence of the “scientific” fact that “barbarous and uncivilized races have everywhere disappeared, before the presence of the civilized.” In his account, the Protestant religion was a handmaiden to the most advanced forms of imperial conquest—forms that were supposedly devoid of all “armed contact” and that would reveal to future Christians and philanthropists an “improved . . . intellectual, moral and social condition of the Africans.”25

The number of Muslims in the United States only slowly grew in the 20th century, and there were likely fewer than fifty mosques in the United States before World War II. Many American Muslims were African American and belonged to offshoots of the faith that were homegrown and rooted in the black community. The fact that these Muslim groups grew up in opposition to white American supremacy no doubt estranged Muslims from mainstream culture, and yet few examples of widespread, coordinated violence against church members exist from the 20th century. In the 21st century, Islamophobia can be seen as a stronger force in American life as the U.S. military embarked on a new series of wars in the Middle East, and as former President George W. Bush at one point referred to a new “crusade” against Islamic terrorism. Various organizations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, and the Arab American Institute monitor incidents of anti-Islamic violence in the United States and work to educate the broader public on issues specific to their community.

Review of the Literature

Recent surveys reflecting on the connections between race and religion in American history include Fay Botham, Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law; Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America; Jane Iwamura, Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture; Ryan P. Jordan, Church, State, and Race: The Discourse of American Religious Liberty, 1750‒1900; and Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600‒2000.26

For Jewish American history, see Stephen D. Corrsin’s Jews in America: From New Amsterdam to the Yiddish Stage and Howard M. Sachar’s A History of the Jews in America.27 For anti-Semitism and the Jewish American experience, see Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America; and Frederic Cople Jaher, The Jews and the Nation: Revolution, Emancipation, State Formation and the Liberal Paradigm in America and France.28

In terms of the history of Catholic‒Protestant conflict and the Americas, see Carla Gardina Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World.29 For anti-Catholicism in general, Ray Allen Billington’s The Protestant Crusade, 1800‒1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism is still an important work, while more recent studies include Elizabeth Fenton, Religious Liberties: Anti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth Century U.S. Literature and Culture; Tracy Fessenden, Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular and American Literature; and Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State.30

Important overviews of white views of indigenous religion are still Robert J. Berkhofer Jr., Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Responses, 1787‒1862; and David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875‒1928.31 On colonial Native American religion and race, see Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America, as well as David Silberman, Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America.32 For the Ghost Dance, see Gregory E. Smoak, Ghost Dances and Identity: Prophetic Religion and American Indian Ethnogenesis in the Nineteenth Century.33 Regarding Peyote, see Omer Call Stewart, Peyote Religion: A History.34

Surveys of African American religion include C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence Mumiya’s The Black Church in the African-American Experience.35 Anthony Pinn has produced several surveys, including The African-American Religious Experience in America and Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion.36 More recent is Paul Harvey’s Through the Storm, Through the Night and Eddie Glaude’s African American Religion.37 For the 19th century, see Curtis J. Evans, The Burden of Black Religion; and Eddie Glaude, Exodus: Religion, Race and Nation in Early Nineteenth Century Black America.38 For the post‒Civil War era, see James B. Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans; Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865‒1898; Jacob S. Dorman, Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions; and Sylvester Johnson, The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth Century American Christianity: Race, Heathens, and the People of God.39

For surveys of Hispanic American religious varieties, see Gaston Espinoza and Mario T. Garcia, eds., Mexican-American Religions: Spirituality, Activism and Culture; Timothy Matovina, Latino Catholicism: Transformations in America’s Largest Church; and Moises Sandoval, On the Move: A History of the Hispanic Church in the United States.40 On anti-Catholicism and the Mexican American War, see John C. Pinheiro, Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican‒American War; for the Philippines War, see Susan Harris, God’s Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898‒1902; for the Chicano movement, see Lara Medina, Las Hermanas: Chicano/Latina Religious-Political Activism in the U.S. Catholic Church.41

For Asians Americans and Christianity overall, see Jennifer C. Snow, Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America, 1850‒1924; for the Chinese exclusion question, see Joshua Paddison, American Heathens: Religion, Race, and Reconstruction in California; for 20th-century Asian American religion, see Joseph Cheah, Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation; and David K. Yoo, Contentious Spirits: Religion in Korean American History, 1903‒1945.42

For a survey of the history of Islam in America, see Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History.43 On the cultural encounter between Islam and Anglo-Americans broadly, see Timothy Marr, The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism; and Thomas S. Kidd, American Christians and Islam Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism.44 For the early national period and Islam, see Robert Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World 1776‒1815; and Paul Baepler White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives.45 For a more recent time period, see Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Muslims in the West: From Sojourners to Citizens.46

Further Reading

  • Albanese, Catherine. America: Religions and Religion. New York: Wadsworth, 1992.
  • Anbinder, Tyler. Nativism and Slavery: The Northern Know Nothings and the Politics of the 1850s. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Asad, Talal. Genealogies of Religion: Discipline and Reasons of Power in Christianity and Islam. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993.
  • Borden, Morton. Jews, Turks, and Infidels. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984.
  • Dowd, Gregory Edmunds. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indian Struggle for Unity, 1745–1815. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992.
  • Fredrickson, George. Racism: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002.
  • Gordon, Sarah Barringer. The Mormon Question: Polygamy and Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth Century America. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002.
  • Guyatt, Nicholas. Providence and the Invention of the United States. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Holt, 2004.
  • Jordan, Ryan P. Slavery and the Meetinghouse: The Quakers and the Abolitionist Dilemma. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2007.
  • Makdisi, Ussama. Artillery of Heaven: American Missionaries and the Failed Conversion of the Middle East. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2008.
  • Noll, Mark A. God and Race in American Politics: A Short History. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2008.
  • Pocock, J. G. Barbarism and Religion: Barbarians, Savages, and Empires. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
  • Said, Edward W. Culture and Imperialism. New York: Knopf, 1993.
  • Scott Wong, K., and Sucheng Chan, eds. Claiming America: Constructing Chinese American Identities during the Exclusion Era. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1998.
  • Silver, James W. Confederate Morale and Church Propaganda. New York: Norton, 1967.
  • Singh, Maina Chawla. Gender, Religion, and the Heathen Lands: American Missionary Women in South Asia. Abingdon, U.K.: Garland, 2000.
  • Stephenson, Anders. Manifest Destiny: American Expansionism and the Empire of Right. New York: Hill and Wang, 1995.
  • Tuveson, Ernest Lee. Redeemer Nation: The Idea of America’s Millennial Role. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1968.
  • Whelan, Irene. “Religious Rivalry and the Making of an Irish-American Identity.” In Making the Irish American: History and Heritage of the Irish in the United States. Edited by J. J. Lee and Marion R. Casey, 272–273. New York: New York University Press, 2007.
  • Wilson, Charles Reagan. Baptized in Blood: The Religion of the Lost Cause. Athens, GA: University of Georgia, 2009.


  • 1. John Adams, “A Dissertation on the Canon and Feudal Law,” in The Works of John Adams, ed. Charles Francis Adams (New York: AMS Press, 1971), 451, 454, 456; and Gad Hitchcock quote in Nathan Hatch, The Sacred Cause of Liberty: Republican Thought and the Millennium in Revolutionary New England (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1977), 63.

  • 2. Alexander Campbell, Popular Lectures and Addresses (Philadelphia: James Challen, 1863), 188, 189.

  • 3. Samuel F. B. Morse, Foreign Conspiracies against Protestants (New York, 1835), 61; and Anna Ella Carroll, The Great American Battle, or the Contest between Christianity and Political Romanism (New York: Miller, Orton & Mulligan, 1856), 78–79.

  • 4. Everson v. Board of Education, 330 U.S. 1 (1947).

  • 5. Watson quote from Philip Dray, At the Hands of Persons Unknown: The Lynching of Black America (New York: Random House, 2003), 77–79.

  • 6. Quotes about Moravians from Richard White, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires and Republics in the Great Lakes Region (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 337; and John Cushing, A Discourse Delivered at Ashburnham . . . at the Request of the Militia Officers . . . (Leominster, MA: Charles Prentiss, 1796), 4, 9–10, 22.

  • 7. For the Seattle speech, see Diane Ravitch, The American Reader: Words That Moved a Nation (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), 92–94. For Pratt, see David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875–1928 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1995), 214.

  • 8. Gregory Smoak, Ghost Dances and Identity: Prophetic Religion and American Indian Ethnogenesis in the Nineteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006), 183; and R. Pierce Beaver, Church, State, and the American Indian (St. Louis: Concordia, 1966), 55.

  • 9. Employment Division, Department of Human Resources of Oregon v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990).

  • 10. For the Walker quote, see David Walker, Appeal, in Four Articles, Together with a Preamble, to the Coloured Citizens of the World (New York: Arno Press, 1969), 26, 51.

  • 11. Christian Advocate, July 20, 1893; Austin Phelps, My Portfolio: A Collection of Essays (New York: Scribner, 1882), 177–178; quote from Charles Carroll, The Negro a Beast, or in the Image of God (St. Louis: American Book and Bible House, 1900), 186–190; and William B. Hodgson, Notes on Northern Africa, the Sahara, and Soudan (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1844), 83–84.

  • 12. Erdmann Doane Beynon, “The Voodoo Cult among Negro Migrants in Detroit,” American Journal of Sociology 43.6 (1938): 900–901.

  • 13. For John L. O’Sullivan, “The Great Nation of Futurity,” Democratic Review 6.23 (1839): 427; the Philadelphia Sun quoted by Amy Greenberg, Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 98.

  • 14. Lyndley Bynam, ed., “Los Angeles in 1854‒1855: The Diary of Reverend James Woods,” Historical Society of Southern California Quarterly 23.2 (January 1941): 82–83.

  • 15. El Siglo quote from Gene Brack, “Mexican Opinion, American Racism, and the War of 1846,” Western Historical Quarterly, April 1970, 172; and “The Religious Conditions in Our New Island Territory,” The Outlook, August 26, 1899, 934.

  • 16. Alice Byram Condict, Old Glory and the Gospel in the Philippines (Chicago: F. H. Revell, 1902), 46, 76.

  • 17. United States Congress, Report of the Joint Special Subcommittee of the Senate and House of Representatives to Investigate Chinese Immigration, February 27, 1877 (Washington, DC, 1877), 28.

  • 18. Ibid., 27.

  • 19. Wong Chin Foo, “Why I am a Heathen,” North American Review 145 (September 1887): 177.

  • 20. Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145 (1879).

  • 21. Ibid., 162, 164.

  • 22. Carey quote from Frank Lambert, Barbary Wars: American Independence in the Atlantic World (New York: Hill and Wang, 2005), 111.

  • 23. Quote from Maria Martin, History of the Captivity and Sufferings of Mrs. Maria Martin, in A Historical Account of the Kingdom of Algiers (Boston: W. Crary, 1807), 6.

  • 24. Henry Harris Jessup, Mohammedan Missionary Problem (Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publications, 1879), 22–23.

  • 25. William Hodgson quotes from his Notes on Northern Africa, the Sahara, and Soudan (New York: Wiley and Putnam, 1844), 9, 83–84.

  • 26. Fay Botham, Almighty God Created the Races: Christianity, Interracial Marriage, and American Law (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2009); Edward J. Blum and Paul Harvey, The Color of Christ: The Son of God and the Saga of Race in America (Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Jane Iwamura, Virtual Orientalism: Asian Religions and American Popular Culture (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011); Ryan P. Jordan, Church, State, and Race: The Discourse of American Religious Liberty, 1750‒1900 (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2012); and Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600‒2000 (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

  • 27. Stephen D. Corrsin, Jews in America: From New Amsterdam to the Yiddish Stage (New York: New York Public Library, 2012); and Howard M. Sachar, A History of the Jews in America (New York: Knopf, 2013).

  • 28. Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994); and Frederic Cople Jaher, The Jews and the Nation: Revolution, Emancipation, State Formation and the Liberal Paradigm in America and France (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002).

  • 29. Carla Gardina Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of the British Atlantic World (Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009).

  • 30. Ray Allen Billington, The Protestant Crusade, 1800‒1860: A Study of the Origins of American Nativism (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964); Elizabeth Fenton, Religious Liberties: Anti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth Century U.S. Literature and Culture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); Tracy Fessenden, Culture and Redemption: Religion, the Secular and American Literature (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006); and Philip Hamburger, Separation of Church and State (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2002).

  • 31. Robert J. Berkhofer Jr., Salvation and the Savage: An Analysis of Protestant Missions and American Indian Responses, 1787‒1862 (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1965); and David Wallace Adams, Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875‒1928 (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1995).

  • 32. Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); and David Silberman, Red Brethren: The Brothertown and Stockbridge Indians and the Problem of Race in Early America (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2010).

  • 33. Smoak, Ghost Dances.

  • 34. Omer Call Stewart, Peyote Religion: A History (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987).

  • 35. C. Eric Lincoln and Lawrence Mumiya, The Black Church in the African-American Experience (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1990).

  • 36. Anthony Pinn, The African-American Religious Experience in America (Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2006); and Anthony Pinn, Terror and Triumph: The Nature of Black Religion (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).

  • 37. Paul Harvey, Through the Storm, Through the Night (Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield, 2011); and Eddie Glaude, African American Religion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

  • 38. Curtis J. Evans, The Burden of Black Religion (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Eddie Glaude, Exodus: Religion, Race and Nation in Early Nineteenth Century Black America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

  • 39. James B. Bennett, Religion and the Rise of Jim Crow in New Orleans (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005); Edward J. Blum, Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865‒1898 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2007); Jacob S. Dorman, Chosen People: The Rise of American Black Israelite Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); and Sylvester Johnson, The Myth of Ham in Nineteenth Century American Christianity: Race, Heathens, and the People of God (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

  • 40. Gaston Espinoza and Mario T. Garcia, eds., Mexican-American Religions: Spirituality, Activism and Culture (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009); Timothy Matovina, Latino Catholicism: Transformations in America’s Largest Church (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010); and Moises Sandoval, On the Move: A History of the Hispanic Church in the United States (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1990).

  • 41. John C. Pinheiro, Missionaries of Republicanism: A Religious History of the Mexican‒American War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014); Susan Harris, God’s Arbiters: Americans and the Philippines, 1898‒1902 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008); and Lara Medina, Las Hermanas: Chicano/Latina Religious-Political Activism in the U.S. Catholic Church (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2005).

  • 42. Jennifer C. Snow, Protestant Missionaries, Asian Immigrants, and Ideologies of Race in America, 1850‒1924 (New York: Routledge, 2007); Joshua Paddison, American Heathens: Religion, Race, and Reconstruction in California (Berkeley: University of California, 2012); Joseph Cheah, Race and Religion in American Buddhism: White Supremacy and Immigrant Adaptation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011); and David K. Yoo, Contentious Spirits: Religion in Korean American History, 1903‒1945 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2010).

  • 43. Edward E. Curtis IV, Muslims in America: A Short History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

  • 44. Timothy Marr, The Cultural Roots of American Islamicism (Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 2006); and Thomas S. Kidd, American Christians and Islam Evangelical Culture and Muslims from the Colonial Period to the Age of Terrorism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013).

  • 45. Robert Allison, The Crescent Obscured: The United States and the Muslim World 1776‒1815 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000); and Paul Baepler White Slaves, African Masters: An Anthology of American Barbary Captivity Narratives (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999).

  • 46. Yvonne Yazbeck Haddad, Muslims in the West: From Sojourners to Citizens (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).