Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



African American women represent a long line of prophetic women. Women who fought for space in the religious world of the nineteenth century, and who fought to have their voices heard in America. The lives and experiences of such women have been excluded, ignored, and dismissed from academic discourses. This study adds a new dimension (the spirituality of African-American women) to the field of curriculum theory and builds on the scholarship of literary scholars who have and are currently recovering the lost lives of African American women and their spirituality. Therefore, this research examined the spirituality and rhetorical strategies utilized by three African American women of the nineteenth century (Maria Miller Stewart, Julia Foote, and Zilpha Elaw) to break down and challenge nineteenth century ideologies around race and gender. Maria Stewart, Julia Foote and Zilpha Elaw espoused a prophetic pedagogy. Prophetic pedagogy is defined as the art or science of teaching in which the individual appropriates a perceived mandate from God to spread His word in order to teach, preach, and advance a conscious or unconscious political agenda. Narratives, autobiographies, sermons and speeches were carefully examined in order to explore the spirituality and rhetorical strategies employed by these three women. The researcher participated in the literal exhumation of Maria Miller Stewart, Julia Foote and Zilpha Elaw, who were crying out from unmarked graves. The researcher conducted an Academic Autopsy on the remains (autobiographies, narratives, etc.) of these three nineteenth century women who paved the way for so many African American women. The findings of this study conclude that Stewart, Elaw and Foote used rhetorical strategies such as conversion rhetoric, spiritual autobiography, resistance rhetoric, radical obedience, the Jeremiad tradition, a theology of conflict and a theology of empowerment to break down barriers and cross cultural boundaries of the nineteenth century. Black women have used any means necessary to speak out and be heard, but for many, their spirituality and religious lives represent devices that allowed them to share their moral wisdom, to empower their communities, to resist stereotypes, and to survive in the face of oppression.



Document Availability at the Time of Submission

Release the entire work immediately for access worldwide.

Committee Chair

Petra Munro Hendry



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