The Sisters of St. Joseph of Baden, PA, and Duquesne University invite you to watch the June 11 book launch of Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle and share your reflections. View photos from the book launch event.
We welcome your response to any question that stirs your heart.
Sisters of St. Joseph, whose history revealed racism in the congregation
Duquesne University (Mission & Identity and the Departments of Catholic Studies, History, Theology).
With gratitude and appreciation to these supporting organizations:
Diocese of Pittsburgh
Leadership Conference of Women Religious – Region IV
Sisters, Servants of IHM-Oblate Sisters of Providence Governing Board
Catholic Sisters Leadership Council of Southwestern PA
Religious Formation Conference
Association of Pittsburgh Priests
Catholic Historical Society of Western PA
Sisters of the Divine Redeemer
National Black Catholic Congress
Catholics for Change in Our Church
Through the generosity of our supporters and at the request of Dr. Williams, a gift will be made to the Sister Thea Bowman Foundation and to fulfill August Wilson’s wish to institutionalize the memory of Sarah Degree in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.
About the book - From Duke University Press Summary
In Subversive Habits, Shannen Dee Williams provides the first full history of Black Catholic nuns in the United States, hailing them as the forgotten prophets of Catholicism and democracy. Drawing on oral histories and previously sealed Church records, Williams demonstrates how master narratives of women’s religious life and Catholic commitments to racial and gender justice fundamentally change when the lives and experiences of African American nuns are taken seriously.
For Black Catholic women and girls, embracing the celibate religious state constituted a radical act of resistance to white supremacy and the sexual terrorism built into chattel slavery and segregation. Williams shows how Black sisters – such as Sister Mary Antona Ebo, who was the only Black member of the inaugural delegation of Catholic sisters to travel to Selma, Alabama, and join the Black voting rights marches of 1965 – were pioneering religious leaders, educators, healthcare professionals, desegregation foot soldiers, Black Power activists, and womanist theologians.
In the process, Williams calls attention to Catholic women’s religious life as a stronghold of white supremacy and racial segregation – and thus an important battleground in the long African American freedom struggle.
About the Author - Dr. Shannen Dee Williams
Dr. Shannen Dee Williams is Associate Professor of History at the University of Dayton. A historian of the African American experience with research and teaching specializations in women’s, religious, and Black freedom movement history, Williams is the author of the forthcoming book, Subversive Habits: Black Catholic Nuns in the Long African American Freedom Struggle, which will be published by Duke University Press on May 6, 2022.
Dr. Williams’s research has been supported by a host of fellowships, grants and awards, including a Scholar-in-Residence Fellowship at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in New York City, a Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Fellowship in Religion and Ethics from the Woodrow Wilson National Foundation, an Albert J. Beveridge Grant from the American Historical Association and the John Tracy Ellis Dissertation Award from the American Catholic Historical Association. Her work has been published in the Journal of African American History, American Catholic Studies, the Washington Post, America Magazine, and the National Catholic Reporter.
A Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians, Dr. Williams also authors the award-winning column, “The Griot’s Cross,” published by the Catholic News Service.