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Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats Hardcover – October 31, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (October 31, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385500866
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385500869
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (72 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #84,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

Countless black women would rather attend church naked than hatless. For these women, a church hat, flamboyant as it may be, is no mere fashion accessory;  it's a cherished African American custom, one observed with boundless passion by black women of various religious denominations. A woman's hat speaks long before its wearer utters a word.  It's what Deirdre Guion calls "hattitude...there's a little more strut in your carriage when you wear a nice hat. There's something special about you." If a hat says a lot about a person, it says even more about a people-the customs they observe, the symbols they prize, and the fashions they fancy.

Photographer Michael Cunningham beautifully captures the self-expressions of women of all ages-from young glamorous women to serene but stylish grandmothers. Award-winning journalist Craig Marberry provides an intimate look at the women and their lives. Together they've captured a captivating custom, this wearing of church hats, a peculiar convergence of faith and fashion that keeps the Sabbath both holy and glamorous.

From the Back Cover

African American Women and Their Church Hats:


"Our crowns have already been bought and paid for. All we have to do is wear them."
-James Baldwin



"We just know inside that we're queens. And these are the crowns we wear."
-Felecia McMillan, journalist

"Listen, never touch my hat! Admire it from a distance. Those are the hat queen rules, honey."
-Peggy Knox, child care provider

"You can flirt with a fan in your hand. You can flirt holding a cigarette, too. But a woman can really flirt with a hat."
-Dolores Foster, real estate agent (retired)

"My husband said, 'You don't need another hat. You don't have but one head.'"
-Dorothy Wynecroff, middle school teacher (retired)


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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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The stories behind the hats are amazingly beautiful.
Kiernan Delany
The only thing more beautiful than the hats in this book are the women that are wearing them!
Lone Star Reader
I received this book as a Mother's Day from my daughter.
LaTanya C Stewart

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 57 people found the following review helpful By fdoamerica on December 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I live in Atlanta and for years I have driven by African-American Churches getting out on Sunday morning. When I pass these churches I often slow down and gaze at the uniquely dressed women coming out the doors -- all dressed to the nines, and most of them are wearing their crowns. For the African-American churchgoing women hats are not mere fashion statements they are integral expression of faith and cultural identity. The Apostle Paul should be thanked daily by all milliners for Paul furthered the fashion of wearing hats to church by writing "Every woman who prays or prophecies with her head unveiled dishonors her head" (I Cor. 11:5).
The hats in this book are as unique and alive as the women that wear them. Michael Cunningham, using black & white film, has beautifully captured the panache that these women and their chapeau's express. Just as every hat in this book has a woman, so every woman in this book has a story about her hats, and I think you will love their stories. This is a refreshing, original book that is not only is captivating but anthropological educational. Highly recommended.
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29 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Lone Star Reader on February 22, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I first heard about this book on the CBS Sunday Morning program, telecast just before Christmas 2000 (write to CBS for a copy of that tape, if you missed it. It features the book's authors and some of the women they photographed. You won't regret it!) I fought Christmas crowds to go to the nearest bookstore to see it firsthand. I was blown away! I'm getting to "that age" when the mothers of the church are wondering when Miss Esteen's girl is finally going to start wearing hats to church. This book is pushing me closer to that day! Don't let the fact that the photos are in black & white, not color, deter you from buying this book. In a lot of ways, the black & white photography helps bring out the true beauty; I think color photography might have actually been a distraction from that. The only thing more beautiful than the hats in this book are the women that are wearing them! Pride, dignity and strength are on each page. If it were only about fashion, I wouldn't recommend this book so highly; it's the women who wear the hats, their spirit and their thoughts and that make this book. To the ladies photographed, I have only one thing to say: I want to be just like you when I grow up!
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By LaShonda Fields on October 31, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats" is a genuine treasure and a breathtaking illustration of fine art. Photographer Michael Cunningham and journalist Craig Marberry exemplify the meaning of a queen with their artistry. The first portrait invites you to begin a journey that will lead you page by page through history with the inspirational and candid stories of each woman bearing a Sunday worship service crown. Truly this book extends to all religions by exploring one simple, but ever important symbol of showing reverence to God.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I stumbled on this book while Christmas shopping. As a 44-year-old white man who is not a church-goer, I didn't think the book would have much to say to me. I looked at a few photos and briefly scanned some of the text and was riveted. I bought the book for myself, read it in an afternoon, and headed back to the bookstore to purchase additional copies as Christmas gifts for friends and family. Messrs. Cunningham and Marberry have produced a truly enchanting book, brilliantly photographed and movingly written.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Kimberley Wilson on November 18, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Reading CROWNS was a joy. The photography is stunning. Some of the women's stories made me laugh and one or two brought tears to my eyes. You will feel like you know these women. I just wish the book was longer.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Brian Brandt on December 14, 2000
Format: Hardcover
would I have expected that a middle-aged, white male suburbanite would pick up a store display of this book, and be overcome by the dignity and strength of these women. If you want to understand how ordinary people can rise above their surroundings, look at the face of Alma Adams on page 145.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By William F. Tschanen on August 29, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I am a white middle-aged male. I saw a piece about this book, photographer, and author on the TV show, "Sunday Morning" and was fascinated with the concept.
As a youth growing up in Columbus, Ohio, in the 60's, I was a member of my church's group "Travelling Freshmen," and we visited many different churches every other Sunday. Even back then, I was fascinated by the experience of the black church.
If you are able to read this book without a few tears forming, there is something wrong with you. These Ladies in this book are truly engaging and this is a wonderful read.
I have the privelege of working in a call center in Jacksonville, Florida with many African-American Ladies who also show the same depth of character as the ladies in this wonderful book. I highly recommend this wonderful book as an easy read, but one that will have a truly profound affect on you!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bobbie B on February 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
From the yesterday jungles of our Motherland to the sanctuaries of today's 21st Century Temples, high profile headresses have been and will always be significant cultural markers for African American Women. Being a frequent hat-bearing female, myself, I thank the author and photojournalist for making their literary commentaries regarding our fetish to be unusually dressed about the head. For me, my interests in hats began as a 7 year-old while watching my mother and her 7 sisters step out on Sunday mornings, dressed to perfection. I would look up at all of them with sheer adoration for their adorning crowns. What was even more intriguing was that each of their hats were "hand-me-down, make-overs" from the rich white women on the avenues who employed these women as domestic workers. So beit, they were day workers during the week; but as soon as they donned their hats, they were queens for a day...Sunday Morning, that is.
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