Righteous Discontent: The Women's Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920

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Overview

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham gives us our first full account of the crucial role of black women in making the church a powerful institution for social and political change in the black community. Focusing on the National Baptist Convention, the largest religious movement among black Americans, Higginbotham shows us how women were largely responsible for making the church a force for self-help. She reveals, too, the challenges of black women to patriarchal theology. At once tough-minded and engaging, this book is central to an understanding of African-American social and cultural life and a critical chapter in the history of religion in America.

Focusing on the National Baptist Convention, the largest religious movement among black Americans, Higginbotham shows readers how women were largely responsible for making the church a force for self-help, also revealing the challenges of black women to patriarchal theology. At once tough-minded and engaging, this book is central to an understanding of African-American social and cultural life and a critical chapter in the history of religion in America. Illustrations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Examining the black church as the domain not only of religious expression but also of the emerging ``pursuit of a black collective will and identity,'' Higginbotham (history, Univ. of Pennsylvania) analyzes the contributions of African American women between 1880 and 1920. Her work addresses a neglected area by clearly documenting the lives of women whose vision, sacrifice, faith, and intelligence served the poor and built schools, promoted self-help, and shaped the forces that would challenge racial and gender subordination. In her account of the women's interaction with black men in pressing for racial equality and with Northern white Baptist women in championing gender equality, Higginbotham insightfully interprets complex gender, race, and class issues, enhancing this book's value to scholars as well as lay readers interested in feminism, racial politics, and church history. Highly recommended.-- Cynthia Widmer, Downingtown, Pa.
New York Times Book Review

If the period was so important for women but simultaneously a low point for black Americans as a group, then how should we understand the apparently contradictory politics of that time? Righteous Discontent accentuates the positive, finding in the contradiction 'a creative tension that both motivated and empowered black women to speak out.' Ms. Higginbotham moves beyond the dichotomous thinking that has often short-circuited our attempts to understand the situation of black women...An important, sophisticated, and richly instructive book.
— Suzanne Lebsock

Washington Post Book World

Higginbotham's book is populated with fascinating and accomplished women...[Her] research is impeccable and her work both ambitious and important. Righteous Discontent contributes significantly to the still underappreciated history of the black church in America.
— Adele Logan Alexander

Journal of American History

Higginbotham has pioneered a study of a long-neglected component of the African-American experience. This book is a powerful and compelling story of the religious life of African-American women and their resistance to racism and sexism. Through Higginbotham's work, the voices of African-American women, which have remained silent too long, emerge distinct and bold.
— Jill Watts

Choice
A landmark contribution to American religious history.
New York Times Book Review - Suzanne Lebsock
If the period was so important for women but simultaneously a low point for black Americans as a group, then how should we understand the apparently contradictory politics of that time? Righteous Discontent accentuates the positive, finding in the contradiction 'a creative tension that both motivated and empowered black women to speak out.' Ms. Higginbotham moves beyond the dichotomous thinking that has often short-circuited our attempts to understand the situation of black women...An important, sophisticated, and richly instructive book.
Washington Post Book World - Adele Logan Alexander
Higginbotham's book is populated with fascinating and accomplished women...[Her] research is impeccable and her work both ambitious and important. Righteous Discontent contributes significantly to the still underappreciated history of the black church in America.
Journal of American History - Jill Watts
Higginbotham has pioneered a study of a long-neglected component of the African-American experience. This book is a powerful and compelling story of the religious life of African-American women and their resistance to racism and sexism. Through Higginbotham's work, the voices of African-American women, which have remained silent too long, emerge distinct and bold.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674769779
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/1993
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham is Professor of History and of Afro-American Studies, Harvard University.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 The Black Church: A Gender Perspective 1
2 The Female Talented Tenth 19
3 Separatist Leanings 47
4 Unlikely Sisterhood 88
5 Feminist Theology, 1880-1900 120
6 The Coming of Age of the Black Baptist Sisterhood 150
7 The Politics of Respectability 185
Notes 231
Index 297
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