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Subversive habits : Black Catholic nuns in the long African American freedom struggle

Call Number

  • 277.3 W7272 (CEN)

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Publication Information

Durham : Duke University Press, 2022.

Physical Description

xxiii, 394 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm


"In this groundbreaking study, Shannen Dee Williams offers the first full historical treatment of Black Catholic sisters in the United States. Drawing upon a host of untapped sources, including previously sealed church records and oral histories, Subversive Habits recovers Black sisters' lives and labors as pioneering Black religious leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, desegregation foot soldiers, Black power activists, and womanist theologians. This book also turns attention to female religious life in the Roman Catholic Church as a stronghold of white supremacy and racial segregation-and in turn an important battleground of the long African American freedom struggle"--


  • Introduction: America's forgotten Black freedom fighters
  • "Our sole wish is to do the will of God" : the early struggles of Black Catholic sisters in the United States
  • "Nothing is too good for the youth of our race" : the fight for Black administered Catholic education during Jim Crow
  • "Is the order Catholic enough?" : the struggle to desegregate white sisterhoods after World War II
  • "I was fired up to go to Selma!" : Black sisters, the Second Vatican Council, and the fight for civil rights
  • "Liberation is our first priority" : Black nuns and Black power
  • "No schools, no churches!" : the fight to save Black Catholic education in the 1970s
  • "The future of the Black nun is dubious" : Black sisters in the age of church decline
  • Conclusion: "The Catholic Church wouldn't be Catholic if it wasn't for us".

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