African American Women and Christian Activism: New York's Black YWCA, 1905-1945 / Edition 1

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Overview

The middle class black women who people Judith Weisenfeld's history were committed both to social action and to institutional expression of their religious convictions. Their story provides an illuminating perspective on the varied forces working to improve quality of life for African Americans in crucial times. When undertaking to help young women migrating to and living alone in New York, Weisenfeld's protagonists chose to work within a national evangelical institution. Their organization of a black chapter of the Young Women's Christian Association in 1905 was a clear step toward establishing a suitable environment for young working women; it was also an expression of their philosophy of social uplift. Weisenfeld's analysis of the setbacks and successes closes with the National YWCA's vote in 1946 to adopt an interracial charter and move toward integration of local chapters, thus opening the door to a different set of challenges for a new generation of black activists.
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Editorial Reviews

American Historical Review
This interesting and useful book fills several important gaps in African-American and women's history…It not only traces the history of the New York black YWCA and its leaders, but it also usefully places the story in a broader historical context…Weisenfeld's careful presentation of the scholarly debates over women's political agency, African-American participation in white-dominated organizations, the process of neighborhood, institutional, and identity formation, and her thoughtful analysis of class, religion, racial politics, and urban development make this a useful and important contribution to the field.
— Cheryl Greenberg
Church History
Drawing on a rich collection of autobiographies, letters, stories, interviews, newspaper and journal articles, archives, film, and secondary literature, Judith Weisenfeld has written a fascinating account of the black YWCA of New York City during the first half of the twentieth century. She presents a culturally, socially, and religiously diverse cadre of African-American women who were dedicated to the cause of racial uplift through the employment of Christian principles...This book should be of great use and interest to novices and specialists alike. In addition to being a intriguing history of African-American women's Christian activism and of black New York, it is also filled with engaging stories that make readers want to know more...In her introduction, Weisenfeld writes, 'I have joined others in taking up the challenge of revealing African American women's strategies, challenges, and contributions to American life.' With this work, she has joined them in a most admirable manner.
— Cecilia A, Moore
American Historical Review
This interesting and useful book fills several important gaps in African-American and women's history…It not only traces the history of the New York black YWCA and its leaders, but it also usefully places the story in a broader historical context…Weisenfeld's careful presentation of the scholarly debates over women's political agency, African-American participation in white-dominated organizations, the process of neighborhood, institutional, and identity formation, and her thoughtful analysis of class, religion, racial politics, and urban development make this a useful and important contribution to the field.
Church History
Drawing on a rich collection of autobiographies, letters, stories, interviews, newspaper and journal articles, archives, film, and secondary literature, Judith Weisenfeld has written a fascinating account of the black YWCA of New York City during the first half of the twentieth century. She presents a culturally, socially, and religiously diverse cadre of African-American women who were dedicated to the cause of racial uplift through the employment of Christian principles...This book should be of great use and interest to novices and specialists alike. In addition to being a intriguing history of African-American women's Christian activism and of black New York, it is also filled with engaging stories that make readers want to know more...In her introduction, Weisenfeld writes, 'I have joined others in taking up the challenge of revealing African American women's strategies, challenges, and contributions to American life.' With this work, she has joined them in a most admirable manner.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674007789
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1998
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 231
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.54 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Judith Weisenfeld is Associate Professor of Religion at Vassar College.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

"Bend the Tree While It Is Young": Institutional Alliances/Institutional Appropriations

African American Women and the Politics of Racial Uplift

YWCA Social Reform Work

African American Women and the National YWCA

"If One Life Shines": African American Women in Networks

Laying an Activist Foundation Conflicting Visions

Conflicting Visions

"The Home-Made Girl": Constructing a Mobile Private Space

Racially Charged Public Space

Racialized and Gendered Public Space

At "Home" in New York

Performing the Private in Public

"We Are It": Building on the Urban Frontier

"Harlem Rides the Range"

Toward a "Room " of Their Own

Internal Frontiers

"Interwoven Destinies": Wars at Home and Abroad

The Crisis of the World

"The Girl You Leave Behind"

An Urban Homefiront

"A Grand Place": Black America's Community Center

A Community Center

Educating for Christian Democracy

Christianizing City Politics

Girls' Work

Leadership Training

"Against the Tide": Interracial Work and Racial Conflict

Notes

Index

Abbreviations

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