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Preface When I first read Spiritual Narratives, a collection of autobiographies of nineteenth-century black religious women published by Oxford University Press in 1988 (part of the Schomberg Library of Nineteenth-Century Black Women Writers), I experienced a dilemma. It stemmed from my dual religious upbringing in the South. My mother was a Baptist, my father was a Pentecostal minister, and I participated fully in both churches. Although trying to negotiate the distinct differences in doctrines and styles of both denominations made me experience a kind of religious schizophrenia, one common denominator presented no conflict: the churches’ expectations of women. As a girl and young woman, I could sing in the choir, usher, teach Sunday school, and participate in youth ministries. It was not within my conceptional or actual reach, however, to even aspire to be a minister. My brother could, and he did, and he is a minister today. Any preaching impulses that I or other women may have thought we had either were suppressed by negative, abhorring commentary made about other women who were “calling themselves preaching,” or they were rechanneled into acceptable “female” positions such as choir director or Sunday school teacher. Thus, when I first read the autobiographical narratives of Jarena Lee, Maria Stewart, Julia Foote, and Frances Joseph Gaudet, my discomfort was overwhelming on several levels. First, these women were all professing to be specifically called by God to preach and spread His word. I had been taught that women do not belong in the pulpit—that a woman’s place was in the pews. Even when women spoke at different events at either one of my churches, they delivered their messages from a podium placed on the side of the pulpit. Although this practice is slowly changing , rarely, when I was growing up, did women stand behind the actual pulpit. And here were these women saying—over a century ago—that ix Thus, when I first read the autobiographical narratives of Jarena Lee, Maria Stewart,Julia Foote,and Frances Joseph Gaudet,my discomfort was overwhelming on several levels. First, these women were all professing to be specifically called by God to preach and spread His word. I had been taught that women do not belong in the pulpit—that a woman’s place was in the pews. Even when women spoke at different events at either one of my churches, they delivered their messages from a podium placed on the side of the pulpit. Although this practice has gradually changed, rarely, when I was growing up, did women stand behind the pulpit to preach. And here were these women saying—over a century ago—that It stemmed from my dual religious upbringing in the South. My mother was a Baptist, my father was a Pentecostal minister, and I participated fully in both churches. Although trying to negotiate the distinct differences in doctrines and styles of both denominations made me experience a kind of religious dissociative disorder, one common denominator presented no conflict: the churches’expectations of women. As a girl and young woman, I could sing in the choir, usher, teach Sunday school, and participate in youth ministries. It was not within my conceptual or actual reach, however, to even aspire to be a minister. My brother could, and he did, and he is a minister today. Any preaching impulses that I or other women may have thought we had either were suppressed by negative, dissuading commentary made about other women who were “calling themselves preaching,” or they were rechanneled into acceptable “female” positions such as choir director or Sunday school teacher. I experienced a dilemma. Schomburg x Preface they had been singled out to do what they were not supposed to do, but they did it anyway. After accepting this dilemma as a condition that would not necessarily be resolved but would be an ever-shifting state in and of itself, I embraced these narratives with great fervor and zeal. I digested them and decided that my angle as a literary scholar would be one that would allow these religious women and what they had written to be used not only as a means of detecting and deconstructing patriarchal flaws in religious institutions but also as a mechanism for expanding the field of African American literary criticism. This leads to another dilemma I encountered. The field of African American literary studies provided very little space for me to really explore the profound theoretical implications of texts like these. Very...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780826262998
Related ISBN
9780826214676
MARC Record
OCLC
1017609628
Pages
160
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-03
Language
English
Open Access
No
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