Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching/Maria Stewart, the Bible and the Rights of African Americans/Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genuis in Bondage/Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching/Maria Stewart, the Bible and the Rights of African Americans/Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genuis in Bondage/Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible

Article excerpt

Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching/Maria Stewart, the Bible and the Rights of African Americans/Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genuis in Bondage/Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible

Armstrong, Julie Buckner. Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2011, Pp. 255. $69.95); Valerie C. Cooper, Maria Stewart, the Bible and the Rights of African Americans (Charlottesville, Virginia: University of Virginia Press, 2011, Pp. 209. $39,50); Vincent Caretta, Phillis Wheatley: Biography of a Genius in Bondage (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2011, Pp. 279. $31.50); Katherine Clay Bassard, Transforming Scriptures: African American Women Writers and the Bible (Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia Press, 2010, Pp. 166. $44.95.)

Reading these four books was challenging in both positive and negative ways. In various ways each author challenges the reader to come to terms with the racism embedded deeply in American culture and religion. The authors also challenge the readers to look at old and marginalized texts in a new light and see how black women struggled to find a voice and transcend the double bonds of race and sex. Unfortunately, the works also were challenging because they revealed the difficulty of having the breadth of knowledge in multiple fields required by interdisciplinary history. Further the four works provide a challenge to scholars of the Episcopal Church to engage a larger audience so that the history and traditions of the Episcopal Church are part of the scholarly conversation beyond the comfortable walls of our own denomination. Three of the books reviewed suffered from a lack of knowledge about the Episcopal Church. It is up to scholars of the church to make our work so relevant that it cannot be ignored.

In Mary Turner and the Memory of Lynching, Julie Buckner Armstrong traces how the 1918 lynching of eight-month-pregnant Mary Turner and the killing of the infant cut from her body was reported, interpreted, and transformed in the hands of activists, writers, and artists over time. Walter White, sent to Georgia by the NAACP to investigate a week-long lynching spree that killed at least eleven blacks, including Mary. He used her death as a way of highlighting both the horror of lynching and to counter the myth that lynching was a justifiable defense of white women's honor. Mary's story was then picked up by African American women writers, poets, and sculptors who struggled to express their horror without transgressing cultural standards for women. Anti-lynching activists continued to refer to her death (but not her name) for generations. In the 1980s feminists and black activists turned a new eye on Mary Turner and on lynching. Now a black history wax museum features her death; Georgians organize memorial re-enactments of her death; and finally after much negotiation, Georgia placed a historical marker at the site of her death.

Only a few Episcopalians appear in this book, notably activist and poet Anne Spencer, but the book's documentation of a white community that could erase these events from memory, and literally not understand how the same landscape carried a very different meaning for the blacks in their community is a teachable moment in understanding the power of white privilege and institutional racism. But Lowndes County, where this lynching took place, is indelibly associated with the civil rights movement, and with the death of Episcopal seminarian, Jonathan Daniels. One cannot help wondering how Lowndes County Episcopalians have been affected by multiple generations of racial violence.

When Maria Stewart began lecturing in 1831 on the rights of African Americans and women, she was a true pioneer. Valerie Cooper looks at Stewart's speeches to explore the theological and religious grounding of this black woman's calls for justice. Cooper uses the introduction to introduce her use of current scholarly perspectives from literature and theology that she uses throughout the book, but gives the reader little in the way of historical context. …

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