Ok, this post doesn't really belong on a blog about the People Called New Lights. But I was recently invited by the Richmond Times-Dispatch to reflect on "Richmond: City of the Dead," a material culture seminar I teach at the University of Richmond, and to share some thoughts on the plight of East End Cemetery, an important African American burial ground that has suffered from decades of neglect and vandalism. Here's a link to the interview, which also discusses the work of my colleagues in the East End Collaboratory. To learn more, check out the Collaboratory's innovative digital map of East End; Richmond Cemeteries, an interactive website created by Collaboratory member Ryan Smith (History, Virginia Commonwealth University); volunteer opportunities with John Shuck and the Friends of East End; and the haunting photographs and powerful essays of journalist and activist Brian Palmer.
The Omohundro Institute recently reissued “‘Pale Blewish Lights’ and a Dead Man’s Groan: Tales of the Supernatural from Eighteenth-Century Plymouth, Massachusetts,” on their mobile app, the OI Reader. Originally published the William and Mary Quarterly in 1998, this essay has always been one of my favorites.
“Pale Blewish Lights” examines a richly detailed haunting incident. In 1733, tenants renting the Thompson Phillips mansion in Plymouth, Massachusetts, complained of strange lights and unusual noises, which they attributed to the specter of the recently deceased mariner. Phillips’s father-in-law, a civil magistrate and Indian missionary named Josiah Cotton, responded to the rumors by filing a slander suit against the loose-lipped tenants. The rich documentary record of the resulting lawsuits, which include trial depositions, Cotton’s memoirs and diary, and his unfinished essay, “Some Observations Concerning Witches, Spirits, & Apparitions,” provide a unparalleled opportunity to examine competing supernatural beliefs in eighteenth-century New England.
To access the article, install the free OI Reader from the App Store or Google Play and download the “Bancroft Prize 2018” file. In addition to “Pale Blewish Lights,” the download package also includes links to Part 3 of Darkness Falls on the Land of Light; my recent interview with Liz Covart, host of the Ben Franklin’s World podcast; and “Souls Filled with Ravishing Transport: Heavenly Visions and the Radical Awakening in New England,” which appeared in the William and Mary Quarterly in 2004. Many thanks to Nadine Zimmerli, Kim Foley, and the rest of the OI team for creating this exciting digital platform for my research.
This week, Darkness Falls on the Land of Light was featured on Ben Franklin’s World, the popular early American history podcast hosted by Liz Covart and the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture. Many thanks to Liz for this wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts on the state of religion in eighteenth-century New England!
Darkness Falls on the Land of Light recently was named co-winner of the Book of the Year award by the Jonathan Edward Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. I'm deeply grateful to the editors of Edwardseana for this wonderful accolade! For a review of the book and an interview in which I share some thoughts on the current state of scholarship on Jonathan Edwards and the Whitefieldian revivals, click the button below.