Highlights from the Gates Collection of African American History and Culture

Go To Church

Church Fan<br />

Church fan, front and back; Mississippi.

Church Fan, Front<br />
Reverse<br />

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.

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