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Pentecostal History, Imagination, and Listening between the Lines

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Historiographic Creativity for Writing Histories of the Marginalized

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As Pentecostals have historically lived, ministered, and led from the margins, their histories often challenge the historian. Reading the religious and social histories contemporaneous to the beginnings of many pentecostal churches and movements is often not enough to discover the complex tapestry of pentecostal voices. Not only oral but also, and particularly, aural historical elements play a key role in the recovery of the “unheard” protagonists in pentecostal histories. The example of Richard Green Spurling and the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) provides an opportunity to imaginatively reconstruct the influences of African Americans on a white Appalachian Baptist-turned-pentecostal preacher. Investigating sung moments of African American prisoners working on a local railroad could shape the religious pedigree of this classical North American pentecostal denomination. This article will explore pentecostal historiography by investigating Spurling and the sung music of African American prisoners as a case study of imaginatively rereading pentecostal histories.

Affiliations: 1: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


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