Highlights from the Gates Collection of African American History and Culture
Go To Church
The church fan is a familiar icon of the Southern black religious experience. Cut out of heavy paper and stapled onto a wooden handle, the fans provided some measure of relief during services that could last several hours in a hot and humid climate. Following the advent of air-conditioning in the 1950s, the fans all but disappeared from white congregations, but remained in many African-American congregations, having become rooted in church culture. The fans commonly featured an advertisement for a local funeral home on the reverse side, underscoring the role of the church played in the local community beyond a place of worship.