Jesus and Juke Joints: Exploring the Histories and Stories of Nontraditional African American Cultural Artifacts in the Digital Age


Mellon/ACLS Community College Faculty Fellowships




Two contemporary incarnations of African American cultural and anthropological vernacular traditions are embodied and symbolized in brick and mortar forms—the juke joint and the black church—which are respectively disappearing and evolving in black life in the United States. The non-traditional/non-academic vernacular traditions include the rhetorical forms that, as posited by Henry Louis Gates, are part of the oral tradition of black expression, while vernacular architecture is structured specific to a region’s culture/geography. The juke joint and black church demonstrate the richness of black life in the United States and its response to socio-economic change. The culture and politics surrounding these two institutions as living vernacular artifacts illustrate the roles that they play, and have historically played, in black Southern life.