The Souls of Womenfolk: The Religious Cultures of Enslaved Women in the Lower South

Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh. Univ. of North Carolina, $24.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-4696-6360-9
Historian Wells-Oghoghomeh debuts with an astute unpacking of the experiences of enslaved African American women, proposing a framework of dismemberment (the psychic and physical traumas of slavery) and “re/membrance” (activities that drew on and built communal history to cope). “Dismembering” experiences include gender imbalances and the shuffling of roles both in West Africa and the United States, geographic dislocation, and the complicated feelings around pregnancy when the children of enslaved women would only serve to benefit white slave owners. Women took back a measure of reproductive control through abortion and infanticide, which Wells-Oghoghomeh explains as shocking but understandable reactions to their painful lives. Discussions of rituals—such as chants at childbirth, use of magical objects to ease pain, or a baptism repurposed as a way to wash away the pain of sexual assault—and mournful hymns show how women have harnessed a variety of “re/membrances.” Wells-Oghoghomeh’s exploration of prayer meetings and religious practices shows how African Americans focused on aspects of the Christian faith’s power—especially the promise of an avenging God. Throughout, the insightful excavation of historical records and bold theorizing create a convincing image of enslaved women’s lives and concerns. This important work will expand academics’ understanding of race and religion in the South. (Sept.)
Reviewed on : 06/21/2021
Release date: 09/14/2021
Genre: Religion
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-1-4696-6359-3
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