In this Book

  • Black Women’s Christian Activism: Seeking Social Justice in a Northern Suburb
  • Book
  • Betty Livingston Adams
  • 2016
  • Published by: NYU Press
summary

2017 Wilbur Non-Fiction Award Recipient

Winner of the 2018 Author's Award in scholarly non-fiction, presented by the New Jersey Studies Academic Alliance


Winner, 2020 Kornitzer Book Prize, given by Drew University


Examines the oft overlooked role of non-elite black women in the growth of northern suburbs and American Protestantism in the first half of the twentieth century

When a domestic servant named Violet Johnson moved to the affluent white suburb of Summit, New Jersey in 1897, she became one of just barely a hundred black residents in the town of six thousand. In this avowedly liberal Protestant community, the very definition of “the suburbs” depended on observance of unmarked and fluctuating race and class barriers. But Johnson did not intend to accept the status quo. Establishing a Baptist church a year later, a seemingly moderate act that would have implications far beyond weekly worship, Johnson challenged assumptions of gender and race, advocating for a politics of civic righteousness that would grant African Americans an equal place in a Christian nation. Johnson’s story is powerful, but she was just one among the many working-class activists integral to the budding days of the civil rights movement.

Focusing on the strategies and organizational models church women employed in the fight for social justice, Adams tracks the intersections of politics and religion, race and gender, and place and space in a New York City suburb, a local example that offers new insights on northern racial oppression and civil rights protest. As this book makes clear, religion made a key difference in the lives and activism of ordinary black women who lived, worked, and worshiped on the margin during this tumultuous time.

Table of Contents

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  1. Cover
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  1. Half Title, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-viii
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  1. Acknowledgments
  2. pp. ix-x
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-16
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  1. 1. “Please Allow Me Space”: Race and Faith in the Suburbs
  2. pp. 17-37
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  1. 2. “A Great Work for God and Humanity”: African American Christian Women and Organized Social Reform
  2. pp. 38-57
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  1. 3. “The Home Away from Home”: Suffrage, War, and Civic Righteousness
  2. pp. 58-81
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  1. 4. “Unholy and Unchristian Attitude”: Interracial Dialogue in Segregated Spaces, 1920–1937
  2. pp. 82-104
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  1. 5. “Putting Real American Ideals in American Life”: Church Women and Electoral Politics
  2. pp. 105-126
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  1. 6. “Carthage Must Be Destroyed”: Health, Housing, and the New Deal
  2. pp. 127-150
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  1. Conclusion: “You Just as Well Die with the Ague as with the Fever”
  2. pp. 151-160
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 161-212
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  1. Selected Bibliography
  2. pp. 213-234
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 235-245
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  1. About the Author
  2. p. 246
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