"A well-written and balanced interpretation of how the issue of domesticity was addressed in the AME church from 1865 to 1900, a period of rapid growth of the denomination in North America, the Caribbean, and Africa."--William Seraile, Lehman College, CUNY
"The only full treatment of African-American family life and domesticity from the perspective of a major black denomination."--Dennis C. Dickerson, Vanderbilt University
Informative and controversial, this book explores the issue of domesticity in the 19th-century African Methodist Episcopal Church. For many in the church, their power to shape the dynamics of the family was the key to strengthening the spirit and role of African-Americans following the Civil War.
In the midst of a hostile racial and political climate, black ministers and their congregations embraced Victorian notions of domesticity as a stabilizing force. Julius H. Bailey shows that they used the ideology to overcome regional tensions, restore families torn apart during slavery, challenge the legitimacy of female preachers, and nurture the spiritual growth of children and the religious life of the home. He also examines the ways male church leaders used the concept to defend their leadership, express hopes and fears, and fend off Social Darwinian attacks on their character.
Discussions of domesticity helped African-Americans to understand the traits of a good father and mother, even as 19th-century ideas about the home were shifting. Were fathers to be stern heads of households or reclusive, prayerful figures who deferred to mothers? Were mothers natural nurturers? Or should they seek training to become domestic educators? For many of the diverse 19th-century black families, ministers of the AME church offered a universal familial philosophy that could bring harmony to the home.
Using the voices of men and women and of clergy and laity and mining the principal publications of the AME church, Bailey presents a new understanding of family life in American religious history.
Julius H. Bailey is assistant professor of religious studies at the University of Redlands in California.
"With this slim volyume, Julius H. Bailey has skillfully handled a large topic, "domesticity" and the nineteenth-century African American family."
"fine contribution to our historical understanding of a black domestic ideology and the making of the "American family."" The Journal of American History
Bailey has laid the groundwork for future inquiries examining the domestic life of the black Protestants after the Civil War. The Journal of Southern History
…explores the development of a domestic ideology that arose in the African-American community, as religious leaders struggled with challenges confronting the black family…a unique contribution to the history of the African-American family… H-Net Book Review
…a valuable contribution to understanding the diverse constructions of family and gender in American religious history. Journal of American Ethnic History