Temple Historian on untold stories of African American women’s fight for racial justice

April 6, 2010

In Jesus, Jobs and Justice (Knopf, 2010), Temple University historian Bettye Collier-Thomas tells the stories of numerous religious and politically active African American women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. Her groundbreaking book gives us a remarkable account of the religious faith, social and political activism, and extraordinary resilience of black women during the centuries of American growth and change.

In researching the book, Collier-Thomas became a kind of sleuth. She said she soon learned that what she needed could not be found in libraries, so she began searching for primary source materials in church basements. According to Collier-Thomas,  she found out that the way to find what she needed for her research, such as old meeting minutes, was to ask the janitors if they knew of any boxes of documents in attics. She clipped and indexed countless articles with the help of research assistants and even had to wear gloves when handling some of the source materials due to the fact that they were so old and dusty. She said she literally invented a research methodology for her project which had no precedents.

In the end, Collier-Thomas created a moving record of heroic women with enduring faith.

Read a review from the New York Times.

–Kim Fischer

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