From Publishers Weekly
The most extensive and best-known histories of African-American religion in America give short shrift to the role of African-American women in religion. In her exhaustive and monumental study, Collier-Thomas (Daughters of Thunder
) allows the strong voices of women as diverse as Ida B. Wells Barnett, Sarah Jane Woodson Early (the first black woman to serve on a faculty of an American university), and Mary McLeod Bethune to articulate the causes of liberation and justice in a culture where their race and sex continually called into question their self-understanding. Collier-Thomas demonstrates the ways black women have woven their faith into their daily experience and played central roles in developing African-American religion, politics, and public culture. By examining the histories of various organizations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church's Woman's Home and Foreign Missionary Society, she shows how black women of faith created a network indispensable to the fight against racism, sexism, and poverty. Although her turgid and wooden prose and academic tone detract from the power of the book, Collier-Thomas's study nevertheless offers a magisterial survey of a too-long neglected topic. (Feb.)
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Collier-Thomas views the long struggle by black women for racial and gender equality through the lens of their strong religious faith and spirituality. She covers two centuries of black women’s history, recalling clubs and organizations including Church Women United and the National Council of Negro Women. Black women’s church clubs headed grassroots social, political, and educational reform movements, speaking out on issues from lynching to woman suffrage. They challenged the racism of white-led groups, from the Young Women’s Christian Association to the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, and worked alongside national black organizations such as the NAACP for civil rights. Collier-Thomas highlights the famous—Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Mary McLeod Bethune—and the less well known, including Nannie Helen Burroughs, a leader in the National Baptist Convention Woman’s Convention, and Julia Foote, a preacher in the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. She also explores issues within the church, including rampant sexism and black women’s struggles with black theology and feminism. Photographs add to the value of this well-researched book. --Vanessa Bush