Clarke, Erskine 1941-
Clarke, Erskine 1941-
Born May 29, 1941; married Nancy Legare Warren. Education: University of South Carolina, A.B.; Columbia Theological Seminary, B.S.; Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, Th.M., Ph.D.
Office—Columbia Theological Seminary, 701 S. Columbia Dr., Decatur, GA 30030. E-mail—[email protected]
Historian, educator, Presbyterian clergyman, and author. Belton Presbyterian Church, Belton, SC, pastor, 1970-73; Columbia Theological Seminary, Decatur, GA, professor of American religious history and director of the Program in Presbyterian and Reformed History and Theology. Visiting fellow, Clare Hall College, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England. Has lectured or served as a consultant at Wesley Theological Seminary, Washington, DC; McCormick Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL; Garrett Theological Seminary, Evanston, IL; United Theological College of the West Indies, Kingston, Jamaica; University of Debrecen, Debrecen, Hungary; Nanjing Theological Seminary, Nanjing, China; and University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Choice Academic Book of the Year, and Author of the Year Award, Dixie Council of Authors and Journalists, both for Wrestlin' Jacob; Francis Makemie Award, Presbyterian Historical Society, for Our Southern Zion; Bancroft Prize, Columbia University, and Bell Prize, Georgia Historical Society, both 2006, both for Dwelling Place; elected a Life Member of Clare Hall.
Wrestlin' Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in the Old South, John Knox Press (Atlanta, GA), 1979, reprinted as Wrestlin' Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in Antebellum Georgia and the Carolina Low Country, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 2000.
Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990, University of Alabama Press (Tuscaloosa, AL), 1996.
(Editor) Exilic Preaching: Testimony for Christian Exiles in an Increasingly Hostile Culture, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 1998.
Contributor to books, including American National Biography, Oxford University Press, 1998. Contributor to periodicals, including Theological Education. Publisher and editor of the Journal for Preachers.
Erskine Clarke is a historian whose primary area of study is U.S. religious history. He has a special interest in the relationship of religion to its social/cultural context and in the study of religion and slavery in the South. In Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990, the author examines the strong Calvinist community that has existed in the South Carolina low country since the first British colony was settled. The author presents his examination of this community as an argument against long-held beliefs by historians and sociologists that people in the region were primarily racists who were devoted to amusement with little or no interest in religion and intellectual pursuits. Clarke provides evidence that in reality, the South Carolinian Calvinists had a long religious tradition and disciplined work ethic, as well as intellectual interests. The book includes extensive notes and a twenty-four-page bibliography.
Writing in the Mississippi Quarterly, W. Harrison Daniel noted that the author "has sought to show the impact which the Reformed community has had on the constantly changing mores and values of the society of which it was a part." Historian contributor David T. Morgan remarked: "Oftentimes, the title promises far more than the book actually delivers. Happily, the reverse is true of Our Southern Zion. It is an outstanding book, one that amounts to much more than a history of Calvinism in South Carolina during the years indicated."
In his 2005 book, Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic, Clarke presents a history of four generations of a white, slave-owning family and the black slave family that worked on the plantation. "As an insight into the moral dilemmas of a slave-owning society and the local patriotism which sustained the Confederate side in the American civil war, it is one of the more remarkable recent books on the ante-bellum South," according to Jonathan Sumption in the Spectator. "It is also refreshingly free from romantic delusions at one extreme or politically correct cant at the other."
The patriarch of the white family in Dwelling Place is Charles Colcok Jones, a Presbyterian minister. Jones stood out at the time for his advocacy of treating slaves humanely, as well as for his work among the Gullah-speaking people. This led him to be called the "Apostle to the Negro Slaves." Nevertheless, as the author reports, Jones and his family met the same end as many other Southern slave holders. Following the patriarch's death in 1863 and the defeat of the Confederate armies shortly afterwards, the Joneses' estate was burned to the ground and looted by Yankee soldiers. In the meantime, the slaves that Jones believed held him in high regard for his relatively kind treatment quickly departed the plantation with few good wishes for their former masters.
The black family Clarke focuses on includes Lizzy Jones and her sons Cato, Cassius, and Porter. This family was at the center of a remarkable African American community on the plantation that struggled against the injustices of slavery. "The portraits of these slaves, especially from the extended family of Lizzy Jones, provide a poignant counterpoint to the chronicle of their white masters," reported Mark Noll in Christianity Today. According to some reviewers, of special note in this family is Phoebe Jones, who married Cassius Jones but remained a woman who rebelled both against her own black community and her slave masters.
"No one else has so deeply probed the everyday worlds that masters and slaves made together," wrote Randall M. Miller in the Library Journal. In the Journal of Southern History, William J. Cooper concluded: "This is a marvelous book. In my judgment very few books match the hype of title or subtitle, but Erskine Clarke has indeed written an epic about dwelling place."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October, 2006, David Brion Davis, review of Dwelling Place: A Plantation Epic, p. 1173.
Choice, September, 1996, review of Our Southern Zion: A History of Calvinism in the South Carolina Low Country, 1690-1990, p. 143; June, 2006, E.R. Crowther, review of Dwelling Place, p. 1887.
Christian Century, May 30, 2006, Anne Blue Wills, review of Dwelling Place, p. 37.
Christianity Today, April 24, 2000, review of Exilic Preaching: Testimony for Christian Exiles in an Increasingly Hostile Culture, p. 86; January, 2006, Mark Noll, review of Dwelling Place, p. 71.
Church History, September, 1997, Charles H. Lippy, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 657.
Essence, February, 2006, Nazenet Habtezghi, "You Should Know … Mrs. Phoebe Jones: A New Book Introduces Us to a Defiant and Determined Woman You Won't Soon Forget," review of Dwelling Place, p. 88.
Historian, fall, 1997, David T. Morgan, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 125.
Journal of American History, June, 1980, review of Wrestlin' Jacob: A Portrait of Religion in the Old South, p. 147; September, 2006, William K. Scarborough, review of Dwelling Place, p. 515.
Journal of Church and State, summer, 1998, Jon Pahl, review of Our Southern Zion, pp. 697-698.
Journal of Southern History, May, 1997, Paul K. Conkin, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 381; February 2007, William J. Cooper, review of Dwelling Place, p. 174.
Journal of the Early Republic, fall, 2007, B.W. Higman, review of Dwelling Place, p. 529.
Library Journal, September 15, 2005, Randall M. Miller, review of Dwelling Place, p. 75.
Mississippi Quarterly, winter, 1996, W. Harrison Daniel, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 131.
New Republic, February 6, 2006, Steven Hahn, "Divine Rights," review of Dwelling Place, p. 28.
Reference & Research Book News, June, 1996, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 8.
Southern Quarterly, summer, 2000, Alice Hall Petry, review of Wrestlin' Jacob, p. 142.
Spectator, October 8, 2005, Jonathan Sumption, "Meaning Well but Doing Ill," review of Dwelling Place, p. 56.
Theology Today, January, 1998, John M. Mulder, review of Our Southern Zion, p. 548; October, 2006, James B. Bennett, review of Dwelling Place, p. 410.
Washington Post Book World, May 13, 2007, Rachel Hartigan Shea, review of Dwelling Place, p. 12.
Columbia Theological Seminary Web site,http://www.ctsnet.edu/ (February 14, 2008), faculty profile of Erskine Clarke.
H-Net Review,http://www.h-net.org/reviews/ (February 14, 2008), Robert Emmett Curran, review of Our Southern Zion.