Sunday, January 4, 2009: 2:50 PM
Petit Trianon (Hilton New York)
This paper looks at the role played by ideas and visual images of Jesus Christ in late-nineteenth-century American expansion. It begins with the era of Reconstruction, when artists and politicians used Christ and his words to push for the extension of citizenship rights to newly freed African Americans. My paper then focuses on how, as United States missionary groups, politicians, and businessmen paid increasing interest in overseas expansion, a new set of paintings depicted a white Jesus as an elder brother to all the races of the world. These new images found increasingly in American Sunday schools and churches, and, my paper argues, helped created a Protestant culture open to international expansion and influence.
By examining the deployment of Christ’s words and his image in the context of Reconstruction and in American expansion, this paper shows one part of the vital importance of religion during the late nineteenth century. It demonstrates that political, national, and international issues could not be separated from religious ones, and that scholars of Reconstruction and of Gilded Age imperialism, such as Matthew Frye Jacobson, Eric Foner, Rebecca Edwards, and Kristen Hoganson, should pay greater attention to the power of religious ideas and images.