“Bettye Collier-Thomas tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, [this] book will be a revelation.”The New York Times Book Review
…thoughtfully and painstakingly charts the indispensable role religion has played in the lives of black women since slavery and the critical part black women have played in the development of so many churches, denominations and religious institutions in America…Most important, Collier-Thomas documents how black women fought both sexism in black churches and racism and paternalism in white denominations, and she connects those internal battles to the larger African American fight for freedom, justice and equality…Jesus, Jobs, and Justice is a significant achievement and an important contribution to history of all Americans…
The Washington Post
…tells the untold stories of scores of religious and politically active black women, their organizations, informal gatherings and intellectual movements. For readers who imagine that the religious and political activism of Sojourner Truth, Mary McLeod Bethune and Rosa Parks is exceptional, the book will be a revelation. The author details the contributions of black women to almost every important aspect of the struggle for racial justice. The book weaves its many smaller stories into the broad fabric of the black experience, beginning in the early days of slavery and covering the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the civil rights and black power movements, before arriving at today's tense moment of renewed hope and familiar anxiety.
The New York Times
The most extensive and best-known histories of African-American religion in America give short shrift to the role of African-American women in religion. In her exhaustive and monumental study, Collier-Thomas (Daughters of Thunder) allows the strong voices of women as diverse as Ida B. Wells Barnett, Sarah Jane Woodson Early (the first black woman to serve on a faculty of an American university), and Mary McLeod Bethune to articulate the causes of liberation and justice in a culture where their race and sex continually called into question their self-understanding. Collier-Thomas demonstrates the ways black women have woven their faith into their daily experience and played central roles in developing African-American religion, politics, and public culture. By examining the histories of various organizations such as the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church’s Woman’s Home and Foreign Missionary Society, she shows how black women of faith created a network indispensable to the fight against racism, sexism, and poverty. Although her turgid and wooden prose and academic tone detract from the power of the book, Collier-Thomas’s study nevertheless offers a magisterial survey of a too-long neglected topic. (Feb.)
Collier-Thomas (history, Temple Univ., Daughters of Thunder: Black Women Preachers and Their Sermons) has produced the first comprehensive history of African American women and their participation in religious institutions from slavery to the present. The book covers enslaved and free women preachers in the antebellum era, black women's missionary work, their struggle to gain equality with men in many denominations, and their work in their own women's organizations and in conjunction with white women's organizations to gain suffrage and civil rights. Collier-Thomas convincingly argues that religion has been a fundamental force in black women's lives, and their participation in churches has shaped public life and politics in America. Although she covers some well-worn history, such as the work of women in the African Methodist Episcopal and Baptist denominations, Collier-Thomas also surveys the untapped archives of smaller churches and organizations. The result is an almost encyclopedic chronicle. VERDICT A monumental work, this is highly recommended for academic libraries and is certainly essential for all students of African American history.—Kate Stewart, Proquest/Library of Congress
Comprehensive survey of the role of African-American women throughout the history of American religion. Collier-Thomas (History/Temple Univ.; Sisters in the Struggle: African-American Women in the Civil Rights-Black Power Movement, 2001, etc.) does an admirable job revealing and preserving the stories of the women as a group and, more importantly, as individuals. Her subject matter is wide-ranging, both historically and geographically, but her methodical approach brings this remarkable story together. The author begins with a discussion of the role of religion in women's lives during the era of slavery, both for slave women and free women. She then explores the early era of women's leadership in the Black church, highlighting extraordinary figures as well as the countless women who toiled without fanfare and who are now barely remembered. Collier-Thomas does a service by listing the names of the countless unheralded women throughout the book. The struggle to gain leadership, whether in the pulpit or in the ability to govern the affairs of their own organizations, is a recurring theme throughout. Moving into the 20th century, Collier-Thomas focuses on an alphabet soup of organizations founded and led by African-American women, dedicated to missions, poor relief, evangelization, suffrage, etc. Such social involvement and organizational acumen provides a preview of the civil-rights battles described later in the book. The author focuses almost exclusively on Black Methodists and Baptists until the later stages of the narrative, but this simply mirrors the demographic reality. As she paraphrases one African-American woman from 1964, "colored people were supposed to be either Baptist orMethodist." Indeed, writes the author, early in the 20th century, 90 percent of them were. The book's title is at first enigmatic, but in the final analysis makes sense-Jesus, jobs and justice are what most of these brave women were concerned with throughout history. An important American story well told.