Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860by Diane Batts Morrow
Founded in Baltimore in 1828 by a French Sulpician priest and a mulatto Caribbean immigrant, the Oblate Sisters of Providence formed the first permanent African American Roman Catholic sisterhood in the United States. It still exists today. Exploring the antebellum history of this pioneering sisterhood, Diane Batts Morrow demonstrates the centrality of race in the Oblate experience.
By their very existence, the Oblate Sisters challenged prevailing social, political, and cultural attitudes on many levels. White society viewed women of color as lacking in moral standing and sexual virtue; at the same time, the sisters' vows of celibacy flew in the face of conventional female roles as wives and mothers. But the Oblate Sisters' religious commitment proved both liberating and empowering, says Morrow. They inculcated into their communal consciousness positive senses of themselves as black women and as women religious. Strengthened by their spiritual fervor, the sisters defied the inferior social status white society ascribed to them and the ambivalence the Catholic Church demonstrated toward them. They successfully persevered in dedicating themselves to spiritual practice in the Roman Catholic tradition and their mission to educate black children during the era of slavery.
"Many thanks to Diane Batts Morrow for bringing the history of this community to life. Everyone interested in American history or women's history, black history or religious history must make room on their shelves for this book. (Jo Ann Kay McNamara, City University of New York)"
What People are Saying About This
Well-written and based on prodigious research, [this book] undoubtedly enhances our general understanding of the antebellum United States. . . . Morrow's interpretation of race, religion and gender in the Oblate community will challenge historians of U.S. Catholicism who do not attend to race, scholars of African-American religion who ignore Catholics, and historians of American women who refuse to see religious identity as a pathway to female agency.--American Catholic Studies
By blending antebellum, religious, African-American, and women's history, Morrow uncovers and analyzes critical aspects of the relationships among the sisters, the Catholic Church, and black and white antebellum society.-- American Catholic Studies Newsletter
Meticulous and inspiring scholarship. . . . The greatest contribution of Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time is its sustained attention to race in the prisms of American Catholicism and women's religious life in the antebellum period.--Religious Studies Review
A valuable contribution to African American, American Catholic, and women's history.--Journal of American History
Morrow's contextually sensitive recovery of the emergence of this distinctive black Catholic institution is a valuable contribution to antebellum religious history.--Journal of Southern History
A fascinating story about the ways religious identity informs identities of race, gender, and ethnicity and a significant contribution to African American religious history. Diane Batts Morrow's study of the Oblate Sisters reveals in this unique group of free women of mixed African and French heritage a sisterhood in the Roman Catholic Church, an educational mission to Baltimore's black community, and a voice of resistance to American racism during the era of slavery.--Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, Harvard University
In this elegantly written history of the first permanent African American Roman Catholic religious order, Diane Batts Morrow successfully weaves themes drawn from religious, racial, and gender history.--Journal of American Studies
Diane Batts Morrow's Persons of Color and Religious at the Same Time: The Oblate Sisters of Providence, 1828-1860 brings forth potent memories for me. The Oblate Sisters were my first formal educators. They did what all educators should do, that is, convey the knowledge of wide-ranging possibilities and, more importantly, give a stamp of self-value for every single student.--Camille O. Cosby
The most significant contribution Morrow makes to American Catholic Studies is her lucid analysis of race and religion in antebellum America. . . . If Morrow's prodigious research into the community and her ability to contextualize the Oblate experience make reading [this book] an extraordinarily worthwhile scholarly undertaking, her mastery of the English language makes the experience truly a pleasure.--American Catholic Studies Newsletter
Meet the Author
Diane Batts Morrow is associate professor of history and African American studies at the University of Georgia in Athens.
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