Prophesying Daughters: Black Women Prechers and the Word, 1823-1913 / Edition 1

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In nineteenth-century America, many black women left their homes, their husbands, and their children to spread the Word of God. Descendants of slaves or former “slave girls” themselves, they traveled all over the country, even abroad, preaching to audiences composed of various races, denominations, sexes, and classes, offering their own interpretations of the Bible. When they were denied the pulpit because of their sex, they preached in tents, bush clearings, meeting halls, private homes, and other spaces. They dealt with domestic ideologies that positioned them as subservient in the home, and with racist ideologies that positioned them as naturally inferior to whites. They also faced legalities restricting blacks socially and physically and the socioeconomic reality of often being part of a large body of unskilled laborers.
Jarena Lee, Julia Foote, Maria Stewart, and Frances Gaudet were four women preachers who endured such hardships because of their religious convictions. Often quoting from the scripture, they insisted that they were indeed prophesying daughters whom God called upon to preach. Significantly, many of these women preachers wrote autobiographies in which they present images of assertive, progressive, pious women—steadfast and unmovable in their religious beliefs and bold in voicing their concerns about the moral standing of their race and society at large.
Chanta M. Haywood examines these autobiographies to provide new insight into the nature of prophesying, offering an alternative approach to literature with strong religious imagery. She analyzes how these four women employed rhetorical and political devices in their narratives, using religious discourse to deconstruct race, class, and gender issues of the nineteenth century.
By exploring how religious beliefs become an avenue for creating alternative ideologies, Prophesying Daughters will appeal to students and scholars of African American literature, women’s studies, and religious studies.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"After this I shall pour my spirit on all mankind: / your sons and your daughters will prophesy. . . . I shall pour out my spirit in those days even on slaves and slave-girls."— From Joel 2:28-29
Library Journal
Haywood (English, Florida A&M Univ.) here examines the autobiographies of four 19th-century black women preachers who were slaves or descendants of slaves in order to reveal the connection between their religious convictions and their commitment to political and social change. Instead of focusing on the gospel message of these texts, Haywood homes in on their trials as black women at a time when they were denied equality in all areas of life. "Prophesying," in Haywood's context, refers not to foretelling but to proclaiming the gospel and biblical message, especially as it relates to social change, as well as to these women's sense of calling, akin to the Apostle Paul. Haywood cites examples from the autobiographies that may inspire readers to consult the original texts, but her own thesis is laden with jargon, and its appeal will be limited to fellow academics searching for a new angle on these 19th-century autobiographies. For comprehensive academic collections in literature, sociology, and religion.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L., Palmyra, VA Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826214676
  • Publisher: University of Missouri Press
  • Publication date: 5/5/2003
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 160
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Chanta M. Haywood is Interim Dean of the School of Graduate Studies and Research and Associate Professor of English at Florida A&M University in Tallahassee.

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Table of Contents

1 The Prophesying Daughters: Biographical and Historical Background 1
2 The Act of Prophesying: Nineteenth-Century Black Women Preachers and Black Literary History 14
3 Prophetic Change: Jarena Lee's and Julia Foote's Uses of Conversion Rhetoric in the Context of Reader Distrust 34
4 Prophetic Journeying: The Trope of Travel in Black Women Preacher's Narratives 51
5 Prophetic Reading: Black Women Preachers and Biblical Interpretation 72
6 Prophetic Works: Prophesying Daughters and Social Activism - The Case of Frances Joseph Gaudet 90
7 Can I Get a Witness? The Implications of Prophesying for African American Literary Studies 111
Selected Bibliography 123
Index 139
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