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Roland Harper’s Southern churches, 1901-1958

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Roland Harper (1878-1966) was a lot of things, notably a geologist and botanist. According to a biographical sketch published two years after his death (see end of post for reference), “Roland Harper was intent. He botanized, observed, photographed, walked, editorialized, criticized, lived, intently.” This kind of focus, coupled with his wide range of interests, made him a particularly prolific documentarian of Southern life.

On his travels around Alabama and Georgia, as he examined rock formations and local flora, Harper also picked up artifacts of everyday life (for example, see our collection of his railroad timetables) and took hundreds of photographs of the communities he visited or passed through. One thing that frequently drew his attention was a central part of early 20th century community life: the local church.

Below is a selection of images he took of churches in the South, from the turn of the century through the late 1950s. Harper would have been about 23 when the first picture below was taken and around 80 as he took the last.

Cities and counties are in Alabama if not otherwise noted.

Church in Georgia, 1901

Church in Georgia, 1901

Interior of log church in Dooley County, Georgia, 1903

Interior of log church in Dooley County, Georgia, 1903

Church in Georgia, 1904

Church in Georgia, 1904

Church in Burke County, Georgia, 1904

Church in Burke County, Georgia, 1904

Frame church in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, 1918

Frame church in St. Mary's County, Maryland, 1918

Little Bethel A.M.E. church, south of Selma, 1922

Little Bethel AME church, south of Selma, 1922

Byrdine A.M.E. Zion church (background) in Greene County, 1923

Byrdine AME Zion church (background), Greene County, Alabama, 1923

Methodist Church and parsonage in Lowndesboro, 1924

Methodist Church and parsonage in Lowndesboro, 1924

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Lowndesboro, 1924

St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Lowndesboro, 1924

Two churches in Jefferson County, Florida, 1925

Two churches in Jefferson County, Florida, 1925

Church in Calhoun County, Florida, 1925

Church in Calhoun County, Florida, 1925

Two churches in Dallas County, 1927

Two churches in Dallas County, Alabama, 1927

First Congregational church (left) in Montgomery, 1927

First Congregational church (left) in Montgomery, 1927

Methodist Church in Somerville, 1927

Methodist Church in Somerville, 1927

Two churches in Russell County, 1927

Two churches in Russell County, Alabama, 1927

Church in Alabama, 1928

Church in Alabama, 1928

Sands Baptist Church in Hart County, Georgia, 1929

Sands Baptist Church in Hart County, Georgia, 1929

Presbyterian Church in Cuthbert, Georgia, 1930

Presbyterian Church in Cuthbert, Georgia, 1930

Prebyterian church in Eutaw, 1931

Prebyterian church in Eutaw, 1931

Episcopal church and cemetery in Carlowville, 1933

Episcopal Church and cemetery in Carlowville, 1933

Two Catholic churches in Fredericksburg, Texas, 1934

Two Catholic churches in Fredericksburg, Texas, 1934

Church on a dirt road in either Louisiana or Mississippi, 1934

Church on a dirt road in either Louisiana or Mississippi, 1934

Old Pisgah Church in Marshall County, 1937

Old Pisgah Church in Marshall County, Alabama, 1937

Old Five-Mile Church between Akron and Greensboro, 1938

Old Five-Mile Church between Akron and Greensboro, 1938

Church (background) in Virginia, 1940

Church (background) in Virginia, 1940

Church being built north of Littleville, 1941

Church being built north of Littleville, 1941

African-American church in Mobile, 1949

African American church in Mobile, 1949

Church in Dayton, 1952

Church in Dayton, 1952

Church in Eatonville, Florida, 1955

Church in Eatonville, Florida, 1955

Beard’s Chapel A.M.E. Zion church, Alberta City area of Tuscaloosa, 1956

Beard's Chapel AME Zion church, Alberta City area of Tuscaloosa, 1956

Castle Hill Baptist church (foreground) and Bethel Church (background) in Alabama(?), 1956

Castle Hill Baptist church, brick, and Bethel Church, wood, 1956

African-American church in Alberta City area of Tuscaloosa, 1957

African-American church in Alberta City area of Tuscaloosa, 1957

Brick church in Tuscaloosa, 1958

Brick church in Tuscaloosa, 1958

African-American Church in Tuscaloosa, 1958

African-American Church in Tuscaloosa, 1958

Seventeenth Street A.O.H. Church of God in Tuscaloosa, circa 1958

Seventeenth Street AOH Church of God in Tuscaloosa, circa 1958


 

Reference

Ewan, Joseph. “Roland McMillan Harper (1878-1966).” Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 95.4 (1968): 390-393.

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