Back to Voodooism
Myrta Lockett Avary

The rule where negroes were not so numerous as to require separate churches was for both races to worship in one building. Slavery usages were modelled on manorial customs in England, where a section of church or chapel is set apart for the peasantry, another for gentry and nobility. The gallery, or some other section of our churches, was reserved for servants, who thus had the same religious teaching we had; there being more of them, they were often in larger evidence than whites at worship. After whites communed, they received the Sacrament from the same hands at the same altar. Their names were on our church rolls. Our old "exhorter" of their own colour did this; sometimes our pastors married them, but this ceremony was not infrequently performed by their masters.


In religious life, after the war, the negro's and the white man's path parted quickly. Negro galleries in white churches soon stood empty. Negroes were being taught that they ought to sit cheek by jowl in the same pews with whites or stay away from white churches.

With freedom, the negro, en masse, relapsed promptly into the voodooism of Africa. Emotional extravaganzas, which for the sake of his health and sanity, if for nothing else, had been held in check by his owners, were indulged without restraint. It was as if a force long repressed burst forth. "Moans," "shouts" and "trance meetings" could be hear for miles. It was weird. I have sat many a night in the window of our house on the big plantation and listened to shouting, jumping, stamping, dancing, in a cabin over a mile distant; in the gray dawn, negroes would come creeping back, exhausted, and unfit for duty.


It has been charged that we had laws against teaching negroes to read. I never heard of them until after the war. All of us tried to teach darkeys to read, and nothing was ever done to anybody about it. If there were such laws, we paid no attention to them, and they were framed for the negroes' and our protection against fanatics.


Dixie After the War by Myrta Lockett Avary
Doubleday, Page & Company, 1906, pages 202,203-204,205-206
Reprinted 1969 by Negro Universities Press, New York