Black Rural Lives Matter: African American Churches and Anti Racist Organizing in The Rural South

“Current formulations of Black Lives Matter as an urban phenomenon are limited and restrictive, inadequate in terms of explaining different contexts and the role of religious actors in these contexts. Nonetheless, can and how can these church led efforts beyond the urban contexts be subsumed under the BLM umbrella? ”

Team Members/Contributors

Frances Henderson Contact Me

About this project grant for researchers

Black Rural Lives Matter is a fascinating ethnography about an anti-racist Christian organization in the US South that sheds light on the interconnected phenomena of race, gender, religion, and the difficulties involved in interracial anti-racist struggle. Current understandings and media representations of the Black Lives Matter Movement and the Movement for Black Lives situate them as primarily urban, which excludes important organizing happening in rural settings — thus limiting the potential of both organizing itself, and the understanding of scholarship about it. Arguing that African American churches play a central role in community activism and relations in rural contexts, this project seeks to understand the ways in which anti-racist organizing occurs in non-urban areas to provide a broader understanding of the Movement for Black Lives in the USA. The study is based on sustained ethnographic research (participant observation, in-depth interviews) in Blount County, Tennessee since January 2015 and is the first full-length book written by a political scientist that investigates anti-racist organizing in the age of the movement for black lives, the end of the age of Obama, and the beginning of the age of Trump within a rural Southern context. Black Rural Lives Matter offers a complex look into the Movement for Black Lives as it emerges outside of urban contexts. Using an intersectional theoretical lens, the theoretical paradigm driving political action within BLM, it addresses how an area in the rural South fits in to the larger, urban Movement for Black Lives. This application seeks funding for ongoing research (interviews with African American pastors and congregations) in Blount County and surrounding Loudon County.