Making the Bible Belt: Texas Prohibitionists and the Politicization of Southern Religion

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By reconstructing the religious crusade to achieve prohibition in Texas, Making the Bible Belt reveals how southern religious leaders overcame longstanding anticlerical traditions and built a powerful political movement that injected religion irreversibly into public life. H.L. Mencken coined “the Bible Belt” in the 1920s to capture the peculiar alliance of religion and public life in the American South, but the reality he described was only the closing chapter of a long historical process. Through the politics of prohibition, and in the face of bitter resistance, a complex but shared commitment to expanding the power and scope of religion transformed southern evangelicals’ inward-looking restraints into an aggressive, self-assertive, and unapologetic political activism. By exploring the controversies surrounding the religious support of prohibition in Texas, Making the Bible Belt reconstructs the purposeful, decades-long campaign to politicize southern religion, hints at the historical origins of the religious right, and explores a compelling and transformative moment in American history.