V Is For Voodoo: The Rise And Decline Of An Anomaly In The American South
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This thesis examines Voodoo's evolution in the context of New Orleans's political and social climate during the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1935, African American anthropologist Zora Neale Hurston published a collection of Voodoo and Hoodoo oral folklore, which she personally collected from black elders residing in the Mississippi River Valley. Her research was one of the first major attempts to explore Voodoo through the lens of cultural anthropology, and to distance the religion from the stereotypical, sensationalistic portrayals of Voodoo in the early 20th century. Being a historically black female led faith, its persistence through the oppressive years of the antebellum South is remarkable. It is through this characteristic of the faith, black female-led, that this thesis examines the prosperity and subsequent decline of the American born tradition. Part One deconstructs Voodoo's most successful years by examining the social and political conditions of 19th century New Orleans that made the city conducive to the success of Voodoo in relation to the aspects of the religious movement that aided in its survival. Part Two explores the Voodoo movement in the later years of the 19th century by analyzing the evolution of New Orleans politics and social dynamic in relation to the decline of the Voodoo movement in addition to the aspects of the religious movement that promoted its decline.