Jefferson Negro Church (Location Key)


The first Negro church mentioned in the fictions has burned down before Flags in the Dust begins, which is why its pastor refers to it as the "late Fust Baptis' church" (286). It is where Simon Strothers worshipped, and as a "Deacon" had possession of the funds that the congregation was saving to build the Second Baptist church (286). In that novel readers meet that preacher and half a dozen members of his congregation, but hear nothing more about the church or where its building was located. In The Mansion, published in 1960 as Faulkner's penultimate book, the narrator says that the "Sunday School" where (the white) Linda Snopes Kohl teaches after her return from Spain meets in "one of the Negro churches" in Jefferson (104, 254). This is the only explicit indication in the fictions that Faulkner imagines more than one "Negro church" in town. There certainly always could have been two or more, but it seems that the more accurate way to represent the church variously attended by Simon, and Dilsey (in The Sound and the Fury), Sam Fathers (in "The Old People"), and Tom-Tom (in "Centaur in Brass" and The Town) is to treat it in all five texts as the same church. None of these other churches are identified by denomination, though their congregations are definitely Protestant. The one church that is most fully described is in The Sound and the Fury, which is the only text to set an event there. The event is the powerful Easter sermon preached by the Reverend Shegog, and that the novel juxtaposes to Jason's chase after his niece and his money. The setting is "a weathered church" with a "crazy steeple" (292); inside it is decorated for Easter "with sparse flowers from kitchen gardens and hedgerows, and with streamers of colored crepe paper" (292). On the other hand, even if this is the "Negro church" Sam Fathers goes to "now and then" in "The Old People" (203), it can hardly be the one he attends in Go Down, Moses. The novel uses the same phrase - Sam goes to "the negro church now and then" (161) - but in that text Sam lives on the McCaslin plantation, which is fifteen miles from Jefferson, rather than the "farm four miles from Jefferson" where he lives in "Old People" (203). The McCaslin place puts a church in Jefferson too far away for the Negroes, many if not all of whom would have to walk there, so on the map of that novel we relocate the church to the county - which is what Faulkner must have done in his own imagination.

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