abdicate to give up formally (a high office, throne, authority, etc.).
the accursed son of Noah Ham, who had laughed at his father's nudity and who had been cursed by his father to be "a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren" (Genesis 9:18-27).
armies had come from the North to set them free reference to Union forces that fought in the South during the U.S. Civil War and, as they traveled between battles, freed southern slaves.
blasphemous irreverent or profane.
bleaching cream a lotion used to lighten the skin.
bondwoman a woman bound to service without pay: a slave.
chambermaid a woman whose work is taking care of bedrooms, as in a hotel.
commune to talk together intimately.
David the biblical king of Israel and Judah, reputed to be the writer of many Psalms.
deadlock a tie between opponents in the course of a contest.
elevator boy a man whose job it is to operate elevators which have to be manually controlled.
forsaken abandoned; desolate; forlorn.
golden text Holy scripture; the Bible.
Gramophone a phonograph, a device for reproducing sound that has been mechanically transcribed in a spiral groove on a circular disc or cylinder. A record player.
Harlot a prostitute.
He done brought us out of Egypt God has set them free from slavery; a biblical allusion to the Israelites being led out of Egypt and slavery.
Hezekiah a biblical king of Judah in the time of Isaiah: 2 Kings 18-20.
ineffaceable impossible to wipe out or erase.
Jeremiah a biblical prophet of the seventh and sixth centuries B.C.
judgment trumpet one of seven trumpets that will herald the apocalypse.
Lord's Anointed a person chosen and blessed by God.
malevolent having or showing ill will; malicious.
mercy seat a place before the pulpit where a person kneels and asks for God's forgiveness.
Moonshine whiskey unlawfully distilled: often such whiskey made from corn and not matured in barrels.
pearl without price Elizabeth's aunt uses this metaphore to refer to Elizabeth's virginity.
Peter and Paul in the dungeon cell reference to two Christian apostles who were martyred, probably during the reign of Nero.
plagues with which the lord had afflicted Egypt reference to the ten plagues that God sent to Egypt so that the Israelites would be released from slavery and allowed to leave.
ravenous greedily or wildly hungry; voracious or famished.
Redeemer here, God.
revival meeting a large church gathering often held during the summer, outside or in a tent, during which people publicly confess their sins and renew their faith.
saints members of the Church of the Fire Baptized who have been saved.
Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego the three biblical captives who came out of the fiery furnace miraculously unharmed: Daniel 3:12-27.
Slaves done ris "Slaves have risen," a reference to a slave revolt at another plantation in which one or more slaves had turned against an oppressor.
sleep-in job a job in which the worker is provided with room and board on the premises, as in the case of a live-in maid.
speaking in tongues glossolalia, ecstatic utterance of usually unintelligible speechlike sounds, as in a religious assembly, viewed by some as a manifestation of deep religious experience.
squalling crying or screaming loudly and harshly.
stable the group of women who work in a brothel, a house of prostitution.
switch a thin flexible twig or stick used for whipping.
Tarry Service Saturday evening service in which the churchgoers wait for the Lord to speak to them.
tarry to wait: in this context, to wait for the Lord.
testify to bear witness to; affirm; declare.
Testimony public avowal, as of faith or of a religious experience.
threshing floor Traditionally an area in which grain is beaten from its husks; here it is an area in the church where the saints pray. Metaphorically, it represents separating the sinners and the saved, just as the chaff is separated from wheat and is an allusion to the biblical passage, "His [God's] winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:12)."
the throne God's throne; here a church altar.
the vow a promise to give up sinful ways and live life according to biblical precepts.
the war WWI.
the Word here, the word of God; Holy Scripture.