By Kathy L. Glass
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Extra info for Courting Communities: Black Female Nationalism and 'Syncre-Nationalism' in the Nineteenth-Century North (Studies in African American History and Culture)
By appropriating the discourse of equality, Stewart tries to undo the dominant construction of blackness and instead associates black men and women with nobility and near-divinity. In short, Stewart uses Biblical passages to construct an alternative black consciousness. Contextualizing not only her 1831 essay, but also her entire body of work, Stewart’s usage of the Bible enables her to establish the conditions that will justify black agency. Although she relies heavily on Biblical language, Stewart also engages the discourse of modernity, which underscores her unshakable faith in the inevitability of linear progress.
These so-called Biblical truths, then, about the “proper” place of women and blacks have historically been presented as evidence of their innate inferiority. But for many free and enslaved religiously-inclined African Americans living in the nineteenth century, the Bible contained emancipatory potential. The ability to access an ideology that provided a steady source of meaning was invaluable to those acquainted with the frailty and uncertainty of life; many blacks were thus especially susceptible to spiritual laws and religious ideologies, which promised the comforting presence of that “changeless” something in the midst of their changing lives.
Qxp 3/14/2006 8:07 AM Page 31 Controversial Collectivities 31 emboldened them to resist oppression in a myriad of ways. And just as important, humanism impacted the psyche in such a way that African Americans were able to know their own value and significance as human beings, despite competing racist ideologies asserting black inferiority. 53 For many of the latter then, the laws of God functioned in a favorable way. It was blacks’ connectedness to an unchanging law, I would argue, which prepared so many of them to challenge the ideologies and practices meant to subordinate them to whites.
Courting Communities: Black Female Nationalism and 'Syncre-Nationalism' in the Nineteenth-Century North (Studies in African American History and Culture) by Kathy L. Glass