Eugene Genovese, professor of history at the University of Rochester, is editor of Marxist Perspectives, a fellow of the Academy of Arts & Science, and a past president of the Organization of American Historians. His books include Roll, Jordon, Roll (for which he received a Bancroft Prize in 1975), The Political Economy of Slavery, The World the Slaveholders Made, and In Red & Black. He is also the editor of the two volumes by Ulrich Bonnell Phillips published by Louisiana State University Press, American Negro Slavery and The Slave Economy of the Old South.
In the eyes of proslavery theorists, clerical and lay, social relations and material conditions affected the extent and pace of the spread of the Gospel and men's preparation to receive it. For proslavery spokesmen, "Christian slavery" offered the South, indeed the world, the best hope for the vital work of preparation for the Kingdom, but they acknowledged that, from a Christian point of view, the slavery practiced in the South left much to be desired. For them, the struggle to reform, or rather transform, social relations was nothing less than a struggle to justify the trust God placed in them when He sanctioned slavery.
The reform campaign of prominent ministers and church laymen featured demands to secure slave marriages and family life, repeal the laws against slave literacy, and punish cruel masters. A Consuming Fire analyzes the strength, weakness, and failure of the struggle for reform and the nature and significance of southern Christian orthodoxy and its vision of a proper social order, class structure, and race relations.