One of the first full accounts of the crucial role of black women in making the black church a powerful institution for social and political change in the African American community, Righteous Discontent was a great read that provides an informed history about an area that I had known little about. Between 1880 and 1920, the black church served as the most effective vehicle by which men and women alike, pushed down by racism and poverty, regrouped and rallied against emotional and physical defeat.
Focusing on the National Baptist Convention, the largest religious movement among black Americans, Higginbotham shows how women were largely responsible for making the church a force for self-help in the black community. Class, race, and gender dynamics continually interact in Higginbotham’s nuanced history. She depicts the cooperation, tension, and negotiation that characterized the relationship between men and women church leaders as well as the interaction of southern black and northern white women’s groups.
Righteous Discontent is central to understanding African American social and cultural life, and a critical chapter in the history of religion in America.