The arson attacks in early 2006 on a number of small Baptist churches in rural Alabama recalled the rash of burnings at dozens of predominantly black houses of worship in the South during the mid-1990s. One of the churches struck by probable arson in 1996 was Little Zion Baptist Church in Boligee, Alabama. This book draws on the voices and memories of church members to share a previously undocumented history of Little Zion, from its beginnings as a brush arbor around the time of emancipation, to its key role in the civil rights movement, to its burning and rebuilding with the help of volunteers from around the world.
Folklorist Shelly O'Foran, a Quaker who went to Boligee as a volunteer in the church rebuilding effort, describes Little Zion as always having been much more than the building itself. She shows how the spiritual and social traditions that the residents of Boligee practice and teach their children have assured the continued vitality of the church and community. Through thoughtful fieldwork and presentation, Little Zion also explores the power of oral narrative to promote understanding between those inside and outside the church community. Illustrated with historical and contemporary photographs, this volume is both a celebration of Little Zion's history and an invitation to share in its long life story.