Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Attending the Primitive Baptist church as a child

Nannie Pharis describes going to church with her mother and her siblings during her childhood. Although her father was not overtly religious until later in life, her mother was a devoted Primitive Baptist. Pharis recalls how strict the Primitive Baptist church was and speaks briefly about some of their expectations of behavior. Although Pharis did not become a member of the Primitive Baptist church, she remained a Christian and also addresses the role of religion within the working community more broadly.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James and Nannie Pharis, December 5, 1978; January 8 and 30, 1979. Interview H-0039. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you all go to church as children?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, we went to church. We'd go with our mother. She was a Primitive Baptist. I remember sitting in there, the preacher would preach three or four hours, the seats would be hard, and I'd hurt.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would your father ever go?
NANNIE PHARIS:
No.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Why not?
NANNIE PHARIS:
He wasn't the religious type. Sometimes when he got down sick he talked right much about it. I think he reformed and did believe. That's the first thing I done when my children was born and could understand, I taught them to believe. I noticed him in his last days, that he did change a lot. My mother was a Christian from the time I remember. I've seen her kneel down and cross her hands and say a prayer many a time when one of the little ones would be sick.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would she take you all to church every Sunday?
NANNIE PHARIS:
All of us that was large enough to go and behave and sit still. That Primitive Baptist, it commenced about ten o'clock and last until about four. And the benches was homemade. You can imagine how hard they was. They made them out of logs. But we stayed with her. So I believed just like she did. We grew up like that.
JAMES PHARIS:
Not a one of them turned out to be a Primitive Baptist when they growed up, did they?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Yes, Isabelle. She belonged to the same church, Goodwill, that my mother did.
ALLEN TULLOS:
This preacher you remember as a child. Did they say things about how people ought to behave, like you were talking about dresses and hair?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Sure. And if you believed in any other denomination they'd drive them through the ground. But they don't do that anymore. You was lost if you wasn't a Primitive Baptist. That's kind of like the Catholic. You didn't pay your preacher. If they got sick or anything you'd donate so much food and stuff like that and go see him.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you remember any people being called before the church for misbehaving?
NANNIE PHARIS:
No, not in the Primitive Baptist. But in the Christian Church there was. I used to sing in the choir in that little church. The minister married us in that Christian Church. They call it Eden now. There was accused for adultery or something, a member of the church. That kind of got to me, made me think.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did the people themselves have to come before the congregation?
NANNIE PHARIS:
They did it. That was a long time ago. I don't think they do it anymore.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they have to admit what they had done?
NANNIE PHARIS:
Confess, yes.