Feminism and Christian Tradition: An Annotated Bibliography and Critical Introduction to the Literature

By Mary-Paula Walsh | Go to book overview

17
Womanist Theology,
Biblical Studies and Ethics

A. Womanism, The Black Church and Black Feminism

1. The Development of Womanist Consciousness

"610" Beale, Frances. "Double Jeopardy: To Be Black and Female." In Black Theology: A Documentary History, 1966-1979, edited by Gayraud Wilmore and James H. Cone, 368-376. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis, 1979.

Theologian James Cone credits this article with his own coming to consciousness of black feminism. Written prior to both Roe v. Wade and the American anti-apartheid movement of the mid and late 80s, this discussion (which was first published in 1970) calls attention to: (1) the systemic economic impact of racism on black men and women (both in the U.S. and South Africa); (2) ideological splits between black men and women that portray black men as weak and black women as strong (both are strong); (3) "bedroom politics," (i.e., the powerlessness of economically impoverished women of color before America's national and international efforts at sterilization policies); and (4) the differences between black and white women's feminism and the conditions of interracial feminist bonding: i.e., the recognition by white feminists that capitalism and racism are all women's enemies.

"611" Brown, Elsa Barkley. "Womanist Consciousness: Maggie Lena Walker and the Independent Order of Saint Luke." Signs 14 (1989): 610-633.

Defining womanism as a "…philosophy… that concerns itself both with sexual equality in the black community and 'with the world power structure that subjugates' both blacks and women" (p. 613614), Brown examines the career and accomplishments of Maggie Lena Walker in her role as the Grand Worthy Secretary of the Independent Order (I.O.) of St. Luke from 1899 to 1934. The I. O. of St. Luke was a mutual aid society formed for the benefit of African American women shortly after the Civil War. It became non-exclusionary in membership in the 1880s, and as Brown's case study demonstrates, it flourished under Walker's leadership with membership levels exceeding more than 100,000 in 28 states. Brown's discussion details Walker's many accomplishments, and in the process lifts up womanist values evident from the history of organization: a substantive and practical recognition of the interlaced nature of race and sex discrimination; a commitment to the strength and employment of the whole African American community; an awareness and political use of the overlapping family, church and other networks within the African American community; and as a last example, a clear perception of the strength borne from the mutual rather than antagonistic (economic) efforts of black women and men. Brown's discussion details these and more and (as with all Signs publications) provides extensive primary and secondary bibliography.

"612" Cannon, Katie G. "The Emergence of Black Feminist Consciousness." In Feminist Interpretation of the Bible, edited by Letty Russell, 30-40. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1985.

In this, her first article on womanist ethics, Cannon develops the thesis that to gain insight into the feminist consciousness of African American women, one must first understand the "historical context in which Black women have found themselves as moral agents" (p. 30). This context is the

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