June 8, 2010

Christine Stansell, a professor of history at the University of Chicago, recently reviewed Temple University professor Bettye Collier-Thomas’ new book   Jesus Jobs and Justice: African American Women and Religion for the New Republic online.

Here’s a taste of what Stansell had to say about the historic book that looks at the contributions African American woman made to growth of the Black Church.

Professor Bettye Collier-Thomas, author of Jesus, Jobs and Justice - African American Woman and Religion.

The heroic era of civil rights struggles is not remembered as a women’s movement, but watching the old news footage of some demonstrations—the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955, for example—you might wonder why. The public face of the protests was male: leaders, spokesmen, orators. But everywhere women filled the ranks, marching, picketing, swaying to the freedom songs. “[T]he movement of the fifties and sixties was largely carried largely by women,” declared Ella Baker, the legendary civil rights leader, trying to set the record straight. “[W]omen carried the movement. There is no doubt about it,” testified a male leader from rural Mississippi. “I mean, there were some men who stood up, but it was a minority.”

The same could be said of the black church because those were the same women who flocked to Sunday morning services in the Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal churches, dressed in stylish hats and prim pumps. Bettye Collier-Thomas’s book shows how central those churches were to their lives, and how important their patient spirituality was to African American politics—and also how restless they were about always playing second fiddle to men. It is an encyclopedic chronicle of women’s efforts to achieve recognition adequate to their contributions and religious leadership proportional to their numbers.

You can read the full review here.

– J.Burton

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