Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights


Begin a discussion with the other members of your small group about the themes.

Replies to your peers should go beyond “I agree” or “Great post! I thought the same


Replies should aim to:


  •  make connections that were not made in the original posts,
  •  ask clarifying or probing questions of your peers,
  •  offer up respectful points of disagreement,
  •  and/or extend the conversation out toward other readings from this course or other



Each discusses need one paragraph of reply.

1, In Witnessing & Testifying:  Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights, Rosetta E. Ross writes

about Black women scholars using the term womanist to identify their work of retrieving,

interpreting, and theorizing.  Womanist theology engages Black women’s religiosity with other

theological discourse and religious interpretation (Ross, 2003, p. 6).  Womanist theologians

introduce four themes of responsibility among Black religious women:  responsibility to

practice and pass on particular virtues that attend to surviving and thriving as persons,

responsibility to work in partnership with God for community survival and positive quality of

life, responsibility to attend needs of the least, and responsibility to participate in community-

building and community-sustaining practices (Ross, 2003, p. 11).

One theme of responsibility among Black religious women is to practice and pass on particular

virtues that attend to surviving and thriving as persons.  Black women have developed coping

practices for physical and emotional well-being for survival against struggles in their moral

lives.  As a result, they have determined three virtues that characterize activities to be the

means to survival—invisible dignity, quiet grace, and unshouted courage.  Invisible dignity is

the “functional prudence,” discerning how and to what extent to confront threats to survival,

and “unctuousness” which attends to preserving life, and maintaining a “feistiness about life”

which relates to living and participating fulling in what life offers.  The second virtue, quiet

grace, is the persistent struggle for human dignity in defiance of degrading oppression.  The

third virtue, unshouted courage, is the capacity to constantly confront threats to survival in the

face of reprisals for one’s determination to survive (Ross, 2003, p. 7).

Another theme of responsibility among Black religious women is the responsibility to attend to

the least in the community.  Black women’s social situation, along with racial, gender, and

economic oppression place them among the least advantaged groups in society.  Through

hope, Black women develop survival strategies and affirm themselves (Ross, 2003, pp. 9-10).

These themes and concepts are similar to servant leadership ideas, but by paying attention to

the particular virtues and responsibilities emerging in the lives of Black women, servant

leadership ideas might be expanded.  When we read about the lives of the Black religious

women in Ross’ book, they were all deeply influenced by family or friends and by traditions of

faith when they were young.  They all remained deeply connected to their communities and

were seekers of a better society.

Ross, R. E. (2003). Witnessing & Testifying:  Black Women, Religion, and Civil Rights. Minneapolis:

Augsburg Press.

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