Gender, Race, and Righteousness
In their pursuit of prohibition and moral politics, religious activists both harnessed and subverted two dominant regional discourses—those surrounding race and gender—to clothe themselves in the garb of righteousness. Prohibition did not merely reflect or reproduce regional norms, but neither did it occur in isolation from them. The creation of the clerics’ moral community depended on an ever-changing amalgamation of race, gender, class, religion, and politics. For instance, although white prohibitionists made explicit appeals to a “better sort” of black southerners, they simultaneously used African American opposition to moral reform as evidence for the need of laws disfranchising black voters. Likewise, male religious leaders loudly proclaimed themselves honorable defenders of female virtue, and while they welcomed female foot soldiers, their notion of male guardianship prevented them from accepting female activists as equal participants in the prohibition crusade.
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