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Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord:
The Beginnings of the AME Church in Florida

Larry Eugene Rivers and Canter Brown, Jr.

Foreword by Stephen W. Angell and Anthony B. Pinn, Series Editors
Hardcover: $34.95
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"Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord is church history without the halo. Yet, it is respectful of the nuances peculiar to the AMEC fellowship. It is church history in painstaking detail, but not in isolation to the social, economic, and political dynamics of the period. This is good writing, good research, and good scholarship."--Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Jr., 19th Episcopal District, AME Church, Johannesburg, South Africa
"This study of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Florida makes a significant contribution to our knowledge of African American, Florida, and Southern History. It treats far more than just religion -- it illuminates the entire post-Civil War era in Florida."--Joe M. Richardson, Florida State University


"A brilliant and lively work that brings alive black Methodism in the late 19th century. This is an extremely important and original contribution to the history of Reconstruction in Florida, filled with fresh insights." -- Stephen W. Angell, Florida A&M University

"Describes the complicated relationship between black church development and black political participation during the Reconstruction era and its aftermath. The authors persuasively demonstrate how black religion extended its protection to freedmen in both sacred and secular settings." -- Dennis C. Dickerson, Vanderbilt University

Written by two eminent historians, Laborers in the Vineyard of the Lord examines the history of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Florida from the beginning of Reconstruction to the institution of Jim Crow segregation, a period when the AME Church played a crucial role in the religious, cultural, and political lives of black Floridians. The book begins with an overview of slave religion and the first stirrings of African Methodism before 1865 and culminates with the formidable challenges that faced the church by 1895.

Not only did the AME Church save lives for Christ, it emerged as a force to be reckoned with in politics. Men such as Charles H. Pearce and Robert Meacham became powerhouses in state and local affairs as well as in the church. They and their fellow ministers fought for the participation of blacks in the governing process and promoted education and employment for all blacks and poor whites. Numerous others staunchly supported the growing national phenomenon of the temperance movement. Drawing on primary sources such as church newspapers and previously overlooked records, the authors also relate the gripping drama of the inner dynamics of AME church life and examine the impact of personality interactions on its leadership.

This case study of an independent church that produced broad religious and civil freedoms for African Americans offers a detailed account of the successes and failures of one of the largest and most effective institutions in post-Civil War and late-19th-century Florida.

Larry Eugene Rivers is Distinguished Professor of History at Florida A&M University, Tallahassee, and the author of Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation (UPF, 2000). His work has been recognized with the Florida Historical Society’s Arthur W. Thompson Prize and the Association for the Study of African American Life and History’s Carter G. Woodson Prize.

Canter Brown, Jr., is the author of many works on Florida history, including Florida’s Peace River Frontier (UPF, 1991); Ossian Bingley Hart, Florida’s Loyalist Reconstruction Governor; and Florida’s Black Public Officials, 1867-1924. He has received the Florida Historical Society’s Rembert W. Patrick Book Award and the American Association for State and Local History’s Certificate of Commendation. He has taught at Florida A&M University.

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Awards
Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Award - 2002

"This is a valuable book, one that makes important contributions to our understanding of African-American religious experiences. It is the most thorough examination of African Methodism in Florida, one that is easy to read and useful to specialists." - American Historical Review
--American Historical Review

"An important case study, Laborers in the Vineyard merits the attention of students and scholars of African American religion." - Religious Studies Review
--Religious Studies Review

"An excellent, highly readable, and original history of the beginnings of the African Methodist Episcopal Church during the Reconstruction and its aftermath in Florida. One of the great strengths of this book is that it weaves intense internal AME church politics with broader political struggles for enfranchisement, equal treatment, and anti-lynching." - Choice Magazine
--Choice

" Should be valued as a contribution to the literature of Florida studies as well as southern religious history".
--The Journal of Southern Religion Reviews

"A well-written study of the AME Church during the post-Civil War era. The authors make a significant contribution to our understanding of the leadership role played by prominent clergymen in Reconstruction politics." "A valuable work and essential for those who are interested in religious and political history."
--Gulf South Historical Review

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