Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas

$34.95 $26.21

How Politicians, the Press, the Klan, and Religious Leaders Imagined an Enemy, 1910–1960
Kenneth C. Barnes
978-1-68226-016-6 (cloth)
978-1-61075-599-3 (ebook)
270 pages, 29 images
6″ x 9″
November 2016


Add to Cart

A timely study that puts current issues—religious intolerance, immigration, the separation of church and state, race relations, and politics—in historical context.

The masthead of the Liberator, an anti-Catholic newspaper published in Magnolia, Arkansas, displayed from 1912 to 1915 an image of the Whore of Babylon. She was an immoral woman sitting on a seven-headed beast, holding a golden cup “full of her abominations,” and intended to represent the Catholic Church.

Propaganda of this type was common during a nationwide surge in antipathy to Catholicism in the early twentieth century. This hostility was especially intense in largely Protestant Arkansas, where for example a 1915 law required the inspection of convents to ensure that priests could not keep nuns as sexual slaves.

Later in the decade, anti-Catholic prejudice attached itself to the campaign against liquor, and when the United States went to war in 1917, suspicion arose against German speakers—most of whom, in Arkansas, were Roman Catholics.

In the 1920s the Ku Klux Klan portrayed Catholics as “inauthentic” Americans and claimed that the Roman church was trying to take over the country’s public schools, institutions, and the government itself. In 1928 a Methodist senator from Arkansas, Joe T. Robinson, was chosen as the running mate to balance the ticket in the presidential campaign of Al Smith, a Catholic, which brought further attention.

Although public expressions of anti-Catholicism eventually lessened, prejudice was once again visible with the 1960 presidential campaign, won by John F. Kennedy.

Anti-Catholicism in Arkansas illustrates how the dominant Protestant majority portrayed Catholics as a feared or despised “other,” a phenomenon that was particularly strong in Arkansas.

UCA professor writes book on history of anti-Catholicism” in the Arkansas Catholic.

Kenneth C. Barnes is professor of history at the University of Central Arkansas. He is the author of Who Killed John Clayton?: Political Violence and the Emergence of the New South and Journey of Hope: The Back-to-Africa Movement in Arkansas in the Late 1800s.

“…a good account of how religious prejudice played out in seemingly non-religious spheres in US history. Librarians interested in southern studies, religious prejudice, and the legal status of religious groups will be especially interested.”

“The origin of this well-written and cogently-argued work sterns from the author’s first-hand observation of anti-Catholic prejudice directed against his brother, who converted to Catholicism in high school while growing up in a Baptist household in Arkansas in the 1960s. Kenneth Barnes seeks to understand the sources, manifestations, and results of bigotry directed against Catholics in Arkansas over a half-century, and in that he succeeds admirably. In addition, he places the state in the larger context of national politics and religious development, thus giving the reader a clearer picture of how Arkansas influenced, and was influenced by, religious and political events in the rest of the country through the election of the first Catholic president in 1960.”
—William J. Atto, Catholic Southwest, Volume 28, 2017

“A book on both Arkansas and southern history that will shed new light on an often downplayed aspect of early twentieth-century religious and political history.”
James M. Woods, author of Mission and Memory: A History of the Catholic Church in Arkansas

“A well-written and persuasive study of anti-Catholicism in Arkansas.”
Jeannie Whayne, author of Delta Empire: Lee Wilson and the Transformation of Agriculture in the New South and coauthor of Arkansas: A Narrative History.

Winner, 2017 Ragsdale Book Award from the Arkansas Historical Association

Winner, 2017 Booker Worthen Literary Prize from the Central Arkansas Library System

You may also like…