This course is an exploration of the spiritual lives of African American women. We will hear black women's voices in history and in literature, in film, performance and music, and within diverse periods and contexts, as reflecting their multidimensional religious experiences. We will also examine the ways that religion has both empowered and disempowered black women in their personal and collective attempts at the definition and realization of a sacred self.
Because of the size of the class, it is required that you complete all of the reading assignments and that you are prepared to discuss them in class. Discussion and participation will comprise 50% of your grade for this course. In addition, you will be required to write a 10-15 page research paper, using primary sources, on a topic approved by myself.
All texts for this course are on reserve and most are available for purchase at the College bookstore. Readings marked with an asterisk are xeroxed and in a binder on General Reserve.
All films will be shown in class for discussion in the same session, except where noted. Films will be treated like any other reading material; It is your responsibility to view films that have been placed on Reserve prior to the class meeting.
1/25 - Introduction: Why black women? The black feminist/womanist agenda
Elsa Barkley Brown, "African American Women's Quilting: A Framework for Conceptualizing and Teaching African American Women's History," SIGNS 14, Summer 1989, reprinted in Micheline Malson, BLACK WOMEN IN AMERICA: SOCIAL SCIENCE PERSPECTIVES, pp. 9-18
Patricia Hill Collins, "The Social Construction of Black Feminist Thought," SIGNS 14, Summer 1989, reprinted in Malson, pp. 297-325
Audre Lorde, "An Open Letter to Mary Daly," in SISTER OUTSIDER
*Delores Williams, "The Color of Feminism: or Speaking the Black Woman's Tongue," JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT
bell hooks, "Black Women and Feminism," in TALKING BACK
bell hooks, "Holding my Sister's Hand," in TEACHING TO TRANSGRESS
2/1 Women in New Worlds: African Women
John Mbiti, "Flowers in the Garden," and Joseph Omoyajomo, "The Role of Women..." in Jacob Olupona, AFRICAN TRADITIONAL RELIGIONS IN CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY
Alice Walker, POSSESSING THE SECRET OF JOY
2/8 Black women and the Protestant Era
William Andrews, ed., SISTERS OF THE SPIRIT
Jean Humez, ed., GIFTS OF POWER: THE WRITINGS OF REBECCA COX JACKSON, BLACK VISIONARY, SHAKER ELDRESS
Alice Walker, IN SEARCH OF OUR MOTHERS'GARDENS, pp. 71-82
2/22 Dorothy Sterling, WE ARE YOUR SISTERS, pp. 5-31, 44-69, 104-119, 150-180
Cheryl Townsend Gilkes, "'Together and in Harness:' Women's Traditions in the Sanctified Church" SIGNS 10, No. 4, Summer 1985, reprinted in Malson.
*Delores Carpenter, "Black Women in Religious Institutions: A Historical Summary from Slavery to the 1960s" JOURNAL OF RELIGIOUS THOUGHT
Sylvia Jacobs, "Afro-American Women Missionaries Confront the African Way of Life," in Darlene Hine, BLACK WOMEN IN UNITED STATES HISTORY, vol. 7
3/1 Evelyn Higginbotham, RIGHTEOUS DISCONTENT
3/8 Spring break - no class
3/15 Contemporary Spiritural Visions
Karen Brown, MAMA LOLA
Michelle Cliff, "'I Found God in Myself and I Loved Her/I Loved her Fiercely:' More Thoughts on the Work of Black Women Artists," JOURNAL OF FEMINIST STUDIES IN RELIGION 2, SPRING 1986, PP. 7-39
*Faith Adiele, "Standing Alone with Myself," in Patricia Bell-Scott, LIFE NOTES
Film: Among Good Christian People
3/29 Womanist Discourse
Jacqueline Grant, "Womanist Theology," in Gayraud Wilmore, AFRICAN AMERICAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES, pp. 208-227
*Jacqueline Grant, "Civil Rights Women," in Vicki Crawford, WOMEN IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT
Kelly Delaine Brown Douglass, "Womanist Theology: What is Its Relationship to Black Theology," in BLACK THEOLOGY, VOL. II, pp, 290-299
"Roundtable on Christian Ethics and Theology in Womanist Perspective," JOURNAL OF FEMINIST STUDIES IN RELIGION 5, Fall, 1989
4/5 Motherwit: black women and folk belief
Gloria Naylor, MAMA DAY
Luisa Teish, JAMBALAYA, Chapters 1, 2, 7 and 8 and browse other sections
Zora Neale Hurston, MULES AND MEN, pp. 193-215, 245-252
Film: Praise House
4/19 Music and Ministry
**Film on Reserve: Say Amen, Somebody**
Jules Schwerin, GOT TO TELL IT
Film: "Gotta Make This Journey: Sweet Honey in the Rock"
Paule Marshall, PRAISESONG FOR THE WIDOW
**Film on Reserve: Daughters of the Dust**