Luke Harlow, assistant professor of history, recently published his first book, Religion, Race, and the Making of Confederate Kentucky, 1830-1880, with Cambridge University Press. Through an analysis of nineteenth-century America’s dominant evangelical Protestant culture, the book shows that ongoing conflict over the meaning of Christian “orthodoxy” constrained the political and cultural horizons available for defenders and opponents of American slavery. The central locus of these debates was Kentucky, a border slave state with a long-standing antislavery presence. Although white Kentuckians famously cast themselves as moderates in the period and remained with the Union during the Civil War, their religious values showed no moderation on the slavery question. When the war ultimately brought emancipation, white Kentuckians found themselves in lockstep with the rest of the Confederate South. Proslavery religion outlived slavery itself. It thus paved the way for the making of Kentucky’s Confederate memory of the war, as well as a deeply entrenched white Democratic Party in the state.
Harlow was previously co-editor of Religion and American Politics: From the Colonial Period to the Present (Oxford University Press, 2007), and his academic articles have appeared in Slavery and Abolition, Ohio Valley History, and the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society. Harlow joined the UTK faculty in 2012 and he is currently studying the political theology of the Republican Party’s coalition after the Civil War and emancipation.