Mothers of the Movement

Mothers of the Movement: Evangelicalism and Religious Experience in Black Women's Activism

Assistant Professor of Religion and African and African American Studies, Vaughn Booker, has a recently published article in the journal, Religions, special issue: Evangelicalism: New Directions in Scholarship.

"Mothers of the Movement: Evangelicalism and Religious Experience in Black Women's Activism," centers Black religious women's activist memoirs, including Mamie Till Mobley's Death of Innocence: The Story of the Hate Crime that Changed America (2003) and Rep. Lucia Kay McBath's Standing Our Ground: The Triumph of Faith over Gun Violence: A Mother's Story (2018), to refocus the narrative of American Evangelicalism and politics around Black women's authoritative narratives of religious experience, expression, mourning, and activism. These memoirs document personal transformation that surrounds racial violence against these Black women's Black sons, Emmett Till (1941–1955) and Jordan Davis (1995–2012). Their religious orientations and experiences serve to chart their pursuit of meaning and mission in the face of American brutality. Centering religious experiences spotlights a tradition of Black religious women who view their Christian salvation as authorizing an ongoing personal relationship with God. Such relationships entail God's ongoing communication with these Christian believers through signs, dreams, visions, and "chance" encounters with other people that they must interpret while relying on their knowledge of scripture. A focus on religious experience in the narratives of activist Black women helps to make significant their human conditions—the contexts that produce their co-constitutive expressions of religious and racial awakenings as they encounter anti-Black violence. In the memoirs of Till and McBath, their sons' murders produce questions about the place of God in the midst of (Black) suffering and their intuitive pursuit of God's mission for them to lead the way in redressing racial injustice.

"Black women, and Black mothers, are at the center of the histories of Christianity and Black Freedom activism in America....A turn toward Black women's religious narratives, as they claim spiritual and social authority via religious experience, may allow for continued discussions of religion and political activism while also refracting conventional notions of the place of Evangelical religious discourses around salvation, providence, witness, and mission....With Mothers of the Movement, scholars—and Americans—face the task of acknowledging anti-Black violence as a religious matter that provokes Black women's work for the reformation of souls, customs, laws, and of our systems of justice."

Read the article here.


Booker, V.A. Mothers of the Movement: Evangelicalism and Religious Experience in Black Women's Activism. Religions 2021, 12, 141.

Professor Booker's recent book, Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century was published in July 2020.  (New York: New York University Press, July 2020) (also on Amazon)