Hoping to Live Happy in an Other World: The North Carolina Exodus of 1879


This paper analyzes the migration of former slaves throughout the United States and the world in the late nineteenth century. The paper considrts how freedpeople utilized their conceptions of religion and spiritual worldview to create alternative versions of freedom. I build on the work of Charles Long, historian of religion, who argues that black folks reconstructed a religious “orientation” that allowed them to endure the hardships of discrimination and violence in the United States and envision a better future. The paper traces the migration of migrants from Eastern North Carolina, who despite countless appeals and attempts to prevent their movement, moved across the country and created new lives in other states and countries. The places they moved to often did not alleviate their condition; however, they persisted and refashioned their lives in various locations. The paper examines how they relied on their kinship ties, understanding of geography, and experiences during enslavement to persist despite overwhelming odds. Importantly, it focuses on how religion became a propelling force of migration dreams.


Joshua Strayhorn
Student, Ph.D., Duke University, North Carolina, United States


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


2024 Special Focus—Spaces, Movement, Time: Religions at Rest and in Movement


Race, Migration, United States, Reconstruction, Religion, Ontology, Millenarian, Discrimination

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