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Article

Robert Baum

Senegalese prophetess was born in the southwestern Senegalese township of Kabrousse a member of the Diola ethnic group Today the Diola number approximately six hundred thousand people primarily in Senegal but there are significant communities in Gambia and Guinea Bissau Generally the Diola are considered the best wet rice farmers in West Africa though they have been increasingly troubled by droughts since the 1930s Although many Diola are Muslim or Catholic in their primary religious affiliation they include the largest number of adherents of an indigenous African religion in the Senegambia region Before the colonial occupation by the French British and Portuguese the Diola had a tradition of direct revelation from the supreme being but it was limited to male prophetic leaders Shortly after colonization in the last years of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth women prophets began to gain influence especially among the southern ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...

Article

Charles Rosenberg

one of the first four graduates from Fisk University, school teacher, missionary, founder of the Tennessee and National Baptist Women's Convention, was born free in Nashville, Tennessee, to Nelson and Eliza Smart Walker. Her father had been enslaved in Virginia, but was allowed to hire his time, earning enough money to purchase both his own freedom and that of his wife. Moving to Tennessee, by 1870 he had accumulated $1,200 in real property working as a barber, while Eliza Walker worked as a dressmaker, supporting three daughters and three sons (1870 Census). Virginia was named for the state of her father's nativity, “which he never ceased to praise” (Broughton, p. 7).

At an early age she enrolled at a private school in Nashville, opened in the 1850s by Daniel Watkins, later pastor of the First Colored Christian Church. When Fisk School convened 9 January 1866 Walker ...

Article

Henry B. Lovejoy

Free black creole of the Lucumí nation, and leader of the famous Mutual Aid Society of the Lucumí Nation of Santa Bárbara, remembered among modern-day practitioners of Cuban Santería as Ṣàngó tẹ̀ dún.

Little documentation exists for Maria Francisca Camejo, and from birth she could have been enslaved or free. The name “Camejo” was common throughout Spain’s empire, and to this day remains popular in the tobacco-growing region of the Piñar del Rio region in western Cuba. Since the eighteenth century, if not earlier, this family engaged in tobacco production for the royal monopoly based at the factory in Havana. By the 1790s a branch of this family residing and trading tobacco in the capital city likely owned María Francisca as a domestic slave. Camejo identified as Lucumí, but baptism records from the early nineteenth century indicate she identified as a “black creole” (morena criolla Like so many ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

Of her college experience, Frances (Fanny) Jackson Coppin remembered: “I never rose to recite in my classes at Oberlin but I felt that I had the honor of the whole African race upon my shoulders. I felt that, should I fail, it would be ascribed to the fact that I was colored.” This describes a burden that many blacks still carry 150 years later—the suspicion that for their white peers, they somehow represent the entire race. Despite this pressure, however, Coppin shone at Oberlin College in Ohio, and she went on to shine as a teacher, school principal, and activist throughout the next fifty years.

Coppin was born a slave in Washington, D.C. the daughter of a slave mother and a white father An aunt purchased Coppin s freedom when she was twelve years old and sent her to live with another aunt in New Bedford Massachusetts They moved ...

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Alessandra Vianello

Islamic mystic and scholar, and the most outstanding poetess in Chimini, the Bantu vernacular of Brava, was born in Brava, a coastal city of southern Somalia, in the second decade of the nineteenth century. Her full name was Mana Sitti Habib Jamaladdin, but she was affectionately called Dada Masiti (Grandmother Masiti) by her fellow citizens. Her family, both on the paternal and maternal side, belonged to the Mahadali Ashraf. However, through her mother’s maternal grandfather, Dada Masiti was also related to the Ali Naziri Ashraf, who were locally more numerous and influential. Both groups, who traced their lineage to the Prophet Muhammad, had settled in Brava in the early seventeenth century.

The events that marked Dada Masiti s early years and had a crucial bearing on her subsequent spiritual development are known only through different oral traditions The most widespread version would have her kidnapped as a child of six ...

Article

Brandi Hughes

nurse, foreign missionary, and school founder, was born to Anna L. Delaney and Daniel Sharpe Delaney in Fernandina Beach, Florida. Emma Beard Delaney came of age in the postbellum generation that witnessed the collapse of Reconstruction and the fading of the early promise of African American emancipation. Against the rising tide of segregation and racial violence, however, Delaney's family managed to sustain a measure of economic security and educational advancement. Her father, Daniel, held the distinction of being the only African American helmsman commissioned for service on the Revenue Cutter Boutwell, a federal ship that patrolled the ports of Savannah, Georgia; Jacksonville, Florida; and Charleston, South Carolina, as a forerunner of the U.S. Coast Guard. The unique benefits of her father's government employment enabled the Delaney family to support an expansive education for Emma and her sister, Annie. In 1889 shortly after completing secondary classes ...

Article

Michael Pasquier

Roman Catholic nun and founder of a religious order, was born in New Orleans, the daughter of Marie Josephe Diaz, a free woman of color, and Jean Baptiste Delille-Sarpy a wealthy white aristocrat Legally categorized as a person of mixed race Delille attended a school for free children of color under the direction of Catholic sisters in New Orleans Her father did not support the family in any measurable fashion and her mother suffered from mental illness all of which required that Delille and her two surviving siblings support themselves at a young age As a teenager she began to identify less with the aristocratic society of free people of color and more with the religious lives of Catholic sisters She became a catechist to free people of color and a lay leader in Catholic confraternities Legal and social standards however limited the extent to which she was ...

Article

Amber B. Gemmeke

Senegalese khalif, or religious leader, born in Thiès, Senegal, was the eldest daughter of Serigne Adoulaye Yakhine Diop (also called Aïdara or Niakhite), khalif of a branch of the Mouride Sufi brotherhood, and Sokhna Tabara Cissé, who was a member of the nobility and of Gambian Mandinka origin. Diop was also known as Soxna Magatte, Soxna Maguette, and Soxna Mame Sèye. Her father was a disciple of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba, who founded the Mouride Sufi brotherhood in Senegal around 1900, and of Cheikh Ibra Fall, the most famous disciple of Cheikh Ahmadou Bamba and founder of the Mouride Baye Fall movement. In 1914 her father founded a new Mouride community in Thiès A charismatic and messianic religious leader his followers considered him the third most influential person in the Mouride brotherhood after Cheikh Amadou Bamba and Cheikh Ibra Fall After the deaths of Bamba and Fall Serigne ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

The daughter of former slaves, Julia Foote attended a segregated white Methodist church with her family during her childhood in Schenectady, New York. When she was a teenager her family moved to Albany, New York, and joined the local African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME). Foote had a conversion experience in that church in 1838.

The next year she married George Foote and moved with him to Boston. Before her conversion, Foote had agreed with the conventional opinion that women should not preach. But after her arrival in Boston, she felt the call to preach and pray in public. Despite the disapproval of her parents, husband, and minister, and the threat of excommunication from her church, Foote began a career as an evangelist. During the next four decades, Foote traveled and preached throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic states, and as far away as Detroit, Michigan San Francisco ...

Article

Born to slave parents, Rosa Horn began preaching in Evanston, Illinois, and moved to New York City in 1926 in order to expand her ministry. In 1929 she founded the Pentecostal Faith Church for All Nations, which was also known as the Mount Calvary Pentecostal Faith Church.

Horn began radio broadcasting from her Harlem congregation in 1934 and her program, You, Pray For Me Church of the Air, attracted listeners from as far as the South and the Caribbean. James Baldwin attended her church as a child, and she inspired him to become a preacher. During the Great Depression Horn opened the Gleaners' Aid Home, which provided food for the poor. From the 1940s through the 1970s, Horn focused her charitable works primarily on providing vocational and religious training to poor youth.

Article

Edna G. Bay

kpojito, the reign-mate of King Tegbesu (r. 1740–1774) of the Fon kingdom of Dahomey (located in what is now southern Benin), was a commoner and possibly a slave. She was without question the most powerful female figure in eighteenth-century Dahomean history and arguably one of the most important individuals in the history of the kingdom. A woman noted for her spiritual powers, Hwanjile ruled in tandem with King Tegbesu. Together they secured the kingdom from various internal and external threats and reordered the spiritual life of the kingdom, ushering in a period of relative peace and prosperity.

Hwanjile was from Ajahome, an area to the west-southwest of Dahomey’s capital, Abomey. She was already an adult with two children and a reputation as an effective priest of the vodun or spirits when she came to Dahomey probably as a captive of war during the reign of King Agaja ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Burundian spiritual leader and anticolonial activist, was born in a remote region near Ndora Mountain in northeast Burundi sometime in the middle of the nineteenth century. Her early life is very obscure as she became a well-known figure in Burundi only near the end of her life in 1934. Inamujandi belonged to a long tradition of female prophets associated with the spirits of deceased kings. Throughout the Great Lakes region, female protectors of royal shrines could be found in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In September 1934, she commenced to preach about the failures of Tutsi state-appointed chiefs. Her fierce criticism of the reigning king Mwambutsa IV struck a chord with many dissatisfied Burundian farmers. In 1930, Mwambutsa IV married a Catholic woman and announced he would no longer lead the annual umuganuro ceremony designed to ensure a bountiful harvest for the following year Some farmers ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

saint, missionary, and pioneer of African Catholicism in Senegal, Gambia, and Sierre Leone, was born on 11 November 1779 in the southern French village of Jallanges, near Dijon. Her father and mother, Balthazar and Claudine Javouhey, were devoted Catholics, and they had nine other children besides Anne-Marie. The family protected priests hiding from revolutionary troops during the French Revolution. Her father was impressed by Javouhey’s fervent belief as an adolescent, but wondered if she had the inner stability to become a nun, as she hoped. Her vocation was further impeded by the revolutionary government, which had banned public worship at the time she first expressed her desire to become a nun, in 1796. From the late 1790s to 1805 Javouhey stayed with several different orders including at a Trappist convent and another convent run by the Sisters of Charity Finally she decided to establish her own religious ...

Article

Kahina  

Allen J. Fromherz

semi legendary queen of the Aures Mountain Berbers who resisted the Arab Muslim conquest of North Africa Her name the Kahina meaning the sorceress in Arabic was ascribed to her by Arab chronicles Indeed the main sources describing the Arab conquest of the Berbers are all in Arabic and are written from the perspective of the conqueror Legends ascribed to Kahina therefore must be seen as part of a conquest narrative even as they often portray her as a noble adversary of the spread of Islam Nevertheless it is almost certain that Kahina represented a historic person a woman or perhaps even a group of different queens or chieftesses who resisted the Arab conquest in the late seventh century Her memory is preserved and celebrated even by the most strident Berber converts to Islam In recent years she has become a powerful symbol of Berber nationalism both within and beyond ...

Article

Lisa Clayton Robinson

“And why should it be thought impossible, heterodox, or improper, for a woman to preach? seeing the Savior died for the woman as well as the man.” In this quotation from her autobiography, Jarena Lee explains the belief that led her to become one of the first African American women preachers. Lee was born into a free black family and was hired out as an indentured servant at the age of seven. She converted to Christianity at the age of twenty-one, and, after wrestling with spiritual doubts for several years, realized that she was serious about her faith and felt called by God to preach. But when Lee first asked to preach at Philadelphia's Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church in 1809, the Rev. Richard Allen dissuaded her because of her gender.

She became a minister's wife instead, marrying the Rev. Joseph Lee in 1811 and giving birth ...

Article

Jualynne E. Dodson

Jarena Lee was the first woman known to petition the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church for authority to preach. She was born in Cape May, New Jersey, and is recorded to have made a first request to preach in 1809 at Bethel African Methodist Church of Philadelphia. The denial of this request did not stop Lee from preaching, and neither did her family life.

She married Reverend Joseph Lee, an AME pastor, in 1811 and moved to Snow Hill, New Jersey. In the sixth year of marriage, Joseph Lee died, and Lee was left with two children and a commitment “to preach his gospel to the fallen sons and daughters of Adam’s race.”

Jarena Lee returned to Philadelphia and renewed her request to preach. Reverend Richard Allen who at Lee s first request could find no precedent in Methodist discipline for women preaching had become bishop of ...

Article

Stacey Pamela Patton

the first woman known to have petitioned for and received the authority to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Jarena Lee was born free in Cape May, New Jersey. At the age of seven she was sent to work as a domestic. In 1804 she went to hear a Presbyterian missionary preach and became so overwhelmed by her sinful nature that she was moved within days to contemplate suicide. She recounts in the narrative she wrote that the “unseen arm of God … saved me from self-murder.” Soon thereafter she became ill; after recovering she moved to Philadelphia, where she heard the preaching of the Reverend Richard Allen who later became the founder of the African Methodist Episcopal Church That day she embraced the church as her own and three weeks from that day my soul was gloriously converted to God under preaching For a few moments ...

Article

Timothy Scarnecchia

Southern Rhodesian religious leader and founder of the Guta re Jehova (GRJ; City of God) church in the 1950s, was born in Buhera, in Chief Chitsunge’s village. She began her religious career in the very popular American Methodist Episcopal Church (AMEC), Ruwadzano (Fellowship) movement. As a women’s organization within the AMEC, the Ruwadzano movement permitted a new mobility and social distinction for African women in rural and urban settings. According to Methodist Synod records, Mai Chaza first appeared in the Salisbury township of Highfield in 1948 after her husband s death in the mining town of Concession While living with another Methodist family in Highfield Mai Chaza had a conversion experience similar to those of other major religious figures in southern Africa After an incident that left her for dead she miraculously returned to life and told those around her that she had visited heaven made peace with her ...

Article

Eva Evers Rosander

Senegalese woman who is honored for her saintliness, was the mother of Shaykh Amadu Bamba, the founder of Muridism. Members of this Senegalese Sufi tariqa (order, or path), called al-Muridiyya, venerate Shaykh Amadu Bamba (c. 1850–1927) in Touba, the sacred city of the Murids, and make pilgrimages to the tomb of his mother, Mame Diarra Bousso, in Porokhane.

Very little is known about Mame Diarra Bousso as a historical person Her father was called Mame Abdou Bousso her mother s name was Sokhna Walo Mbacké They belonged to the Halpulaar ethnic group Originally from Guéde Fouta they left because of political unrest in the region and went to Kayor earning a living by teaching the Qurʾan Both Mame Diarra s mother and father were deeply religious and her mother ensured that her daughter became quite learned in Islam Later Mame Diarra Bousso became the second wife of Mame Mor Anta ...