cover image Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle

Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle

Shannen Dee Williams. Duke Univ, $29.95 trade paper (416p) ISBN 978-1-47801-820-

Williams, a history professor at the University of Dayton, brings to light in her ambitious debut the overlooked contributions of American Black Catholic nuns to the fight for civil rights. Williams provides a crucial amendment to standard histories of U.S. Catholicism and Black religion generally by focusing on the “voices of a group of Black American churchwomen whose lives, labors, and struggles have been systematically ignored,” while convincingly arguing that their activism led the Church to liberalize its position on racial issues. Williams provides fascinating detail on the establishment of the influential National Black Sisters’ Conference in 1968, Black nuns’ victories in desegregating Catholic universities and all-white sisterhoods, and the efforts of civil rights activist Sister Mary Antona Ebo, who protested for racial justice from Selma, Ala., to Ferguson, Mo. Informative and often surprising, this should be required reading for scholars of Catholic and African American religious history and will undoubtedly become the standard text on its subject. (May)