A Coat of Many Colors
Religion and Society along the Cape Fear River of North Carolina
Published by: The University Press of Kentucky
Imprint: The University Press of Kentucky
Sales Date: 11/13/2009
While religious diversity is often considered a recent phenomenon in America, the Cape Fear region of southeastern North Carolina has been a diverse community since the area was first settled. Early on, the region and the port city of Wilmington were more urban than the rest of the state and thus provided people with opportunities seldom found in other parts of North Carolina. This area drew residents from many ethnic backgrounds, and the men and women who settled there became an integral part of the region's culture. Set against the backdrop of national and southern religious experience, A Coat of Many Colors examines issues of religious diversity and regional identity in the Cape Fear area. Author Walter H. Conser Jr. draws on a broad range of sources, including congregational records, sermon texts, liturgy, newspaper accounts, family memoirs, and technological developments to explore the evolution of religious life in this area. Beginning with the story of prehistoric Native Americans and continuing through an examination of life at the end of twentieth century, Conser tracks the development of the various religions, denominations, and ethnic groups that call the Cape Fear region home. From early Native American traditions to the establishment of the first churches, cathedrals, synagogues, mosques, and temples, A Coat of Many Colors offers a comprehensive view of the religious and ethnic diversity that have characterized Cape Fear throughout its history. Through the lens of regional history, Conser explores how this area's rich religious and racial diversity can be seen as a microcosm for the South, and he examines the ways in which religion can affect such diverse aspects of life as architecture and race relations.
Winner of the Clarendon Cup given by the Lower Cape Fear Historical Society.
Winner of the 2007 Book Award given by the North Carolina Presbyterian Historical Society.
Uses sermon texts, congressional records, newspaper accounts, and family memoirs to explore the evolution of religious life in the South from Native American traditions to the arrival of mosques and Buddhist temples.~Wilmington Star-News
Represents regional institutional history at its best.... Conser's work deserves attention from all who are interested in southern history, American religion, and sociocultural studies. Highly recommended.~Choice
A wonderful book, broadly conceived, deeply researched, beautifully written, and carefully documented. It exemplifies that aphorism about how much can be learned by asking 'big' questions about little places.~John B. Boles, William P. Hobby Professor of History, Rice University
Walter H. Conser Jr. provides a thorough survey of religion in the Cape Fear region, the southeastern quadrant of North Carolina... [which] is a microcosm of the larger history of religion in America. Along the way, we learn about local people, institutions, and churches, with a degree of detail and specificity that could only have come from a historian who is also a local resident.~Journal of American History
Conser bolsters his book's chronological sweep by steadying it upon a sturdy and eclectic evidentiary foundation... Deeply researched subregional studies like this one will provide scholars with the tools they need to take up Conser's call to create a new map of America's changing religious terrain.~North Carolina Historical Review
The variety and sweep of the narrative take the reader's breath away.~Robert Calhoon, University of North Carolina at Greensboro
"Conser does a superb job with the broad strokes, and how they represent developments in American religious history. The book's breadth of coverage makes its own significant contribution. Conser's methodology, in fact, provides an excellent model for other historians who seek to tell the story of American religion in regional locations."—Mark G. Toulouse, Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, American Historical Review~Mark G. Toulouse, American Historical Review
"A Coat of Many Colors is a sweeping survey of religious life in southeastern North Carolina from pre-European contact to the recent past. Richly detailed and deeply researched, Conser – a professor of religious studies and history at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington – demonstrably writes with an intimate awareness of the region he describes. To be sure, A Coat of Many Colors is now the authoritative work on religion in southeastern North Caolina, but this volume is not simply a narrow provincial study."—Luke E. Harlow, Rice University, Journal of Southern Religion~Luke E. Harlow, Journal of Southern Religion
"Ambitious in chronological and thematic scope, the book paints a compelling and unconventional portrait of religious life in the region... Walter H. Conser, Jr.'s book breaks important ground in the study of southern religion."~South Carolina Historical Magazine
Students of religious history have long been methodologically inventive bringing analytical tools from sociology, ethnography, anthropology, geography, and elsewhere to bear in their research. Conser and Payne fully embrace this trend toward interdisciplinary scholarship....~Church History