In celebration of U.S. Women’s History Month 2015, the ABSW community is invited to remember and to honor the African American Christian Women presented here. Collectively, their lives establish a historical trajectory stretching from 1783 to 1964, but until fairly recently these and countless other African American women have not received the recognition they deserve for their extraordinary contributions in charting the course of U.S. history.
Jarena Lee. 1783 – 1849
Jarena Lee was the first woman known to petition the African Methodist Episcopal Church “to be permitted the liberty of holding prayer meetings in my own hired house, and of exhorting as I found liberty,” a request granted in 1819 by Bishop Richard Allen.
Sojourner Truth. 1797 – 1883
Before the Civil War, Sojourner Truth was a feminist abolitionist and afterwards a tireless worker in providing relief and job placement to freed people.
Maria W. Stewart. 1803 – 1879
Maria Stewart, a woman of profound religious faith, a pioneer black abolitionist, and a defiant champion of women’s rights, was the first American woman to lecture in public on political themes and leave extant copies of her texts.
Harriet Jacobs. 1813 – 1897
Harriet Jacobs authored the most important slave narrative by an African American woman, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, Written By Herself (published in 1861).
Harriet Tubman. 1820 – 1913
Rooted in and guided by her deep spiritual faith, Harriet Tubman escaped her slave owner in 1849 and by 1854 had become an indispensable figure in the abolitionist and Underground Railroad networks of Philadelphia, New York, and Boston.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. 1825 – 1911
An extraordinarily gifted, prolific American literary figure, Harper was also a compelling abolitionist lecturer, staunch supporter of the Underground Railroad, and a founder of the American Woman Suffrage Association (1866) and of the National Association of Colored Women (1898). She was on the national board of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), published extensively in the Christian Recorder and appears in Bishop Daniel Payne’s 1891 History of the AME Church.
Ida B. Wells-Barnett. 1862 – 1931
Utilizing her journalistic pen and a tireless activism, Wells-Barnett fearlessly devoted her life to the cause of justice for African Americans. Born into slavery in Mississippi, in 1879 she moved to Memphis where she taught school and edited the newspaper, Free Speech and Headlight. Her sustained campaign against lynching led to her 1892 investigative report, “Southern Horrors: Lynch Law in All Its Phases” and to both national and international speaking tours.
Anna Julia Cooper. 1858 – 1964
A scholar, public school teacher, social activist and author, Cooper is best known for her book A Voice from the South by a Black Woman of the South (1892). In 1914, she studied at Columbia University (New York), and in 1925 earned a doctorate from the Sorbonne (Paris). In 1930 she became president of the Frelinghuysen Group of Schools for Employed Colored Persons (Washington, DC). During her long lifetime Cooper continuously articulated and refined her analysis of two insights: that oppressive social power is a global structure and that those most severely affected are the world’s women of color.
Dr. Margaret McManus
Associate Professor of History and Theology