My dissertation, “Keep the Pearly Gates Ajar For Me: The Racial Politics of Heavenly Accessibility, 1869-1909,” tracks the political complexities of the “gates ajar” trope using literary studies, genre theory, material religion, history, and critical race theory. Appearing in literary, musical, theatrical, even floral forms, the “gates ajar” trope both reinscribed and challenged the “romantic racialist” ideas of white liberals. Just how wide have the gates been opened, for how long, and for whom?  In the 1870s, the idea of the pearly gates being left ajar to welcome people into heaven was incorporated into front-page poems, revivalist hymns, popular songs, and stage productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin; in the 1880s, the “gates ajar” materialized as a popular floral sculpture featured in the funeral of President James Garfield; in the 1890s it took root as topiary in public parks; in 1909 Mark Twain parodied the family-size heaven of The Gates Ajar with a heaven measured in light-years. In the 1910s, funerals officiated by the African American women’s benevolent association The Gates Ajar Temple used the “gates ajar” as a symbol of connection and continuity amid the fragmentations of the Great Migration. This project represents an intersection of two longstanding research interests: the desire to take “religion and literature” discourses off the page, to take into account materiality, readership, and power relations; and a critical approach to narratives of twentieth-century liberalism.