Mobilizing "God’s Army"

By: Angela Hornsby-Gutting  

Absent from scholarly accounts of Nannie Helen Burroughs, a black Baptist women’s leader and race activist in the United States, is how she configured the Christian-based National Training School for Women and Girls to educate her students and the black masses about civil engagement, economic justice, and non-violent public agitation, ideals that were emblematic of existing and future Civil Rights Movement strategies. The School’s status as a meta institution--it housed a printing plant and economic cooperative --stretched its pedagogy, as premised on a “discourse of resistance,” beyond the physical borders of the school. Burroughs, who served as corresponding secretary and president of the Woman’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention, utilized her curriculum, religious writings produced at the school, such as The Worker, along with an economic cooperative housed on the campus, to provide African-Americans communal lessons in race ideology and strategy while advocating for an elevated collectivist and feminist race consciousness. A foremother of Womanist theology, Burroughs’s public sector work was informed by revisions to Biblical scripture that empowered women and liberated them from restrictive roles in the church and society. Such theology held that men and women were equal in the eyes of God, and as such should play active roles in foreign, domestic fields and other applicable Baptist terrain. Burroughs’s religious-inspired activism thus demonstrates the nexus, rather than divergence, between her religious activity, educational philosophy/pedagogy, and communally-centered political protests for racial justice.

Religion, Gender, Education, African Americans, Patriarchy, Community Cohesion, Human Rights
The Politics of Religion
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Dr. Angela Hornsby-Gutting

Associate Professor, History, Missouri State University, United States
Missouri, United States

Dr. Hornsby-Gutting is an historian of the twentieth-century United States. She is particularly interested in African-American youth culture, race-based communal activism and gender constructions among black men and women in the early 20th century. Hornsby-Gutting is author of Black Manhood and Community Building in North Carolina, 1900-1930. Her articles and essays have appeared in the Journal of Negro History, the Journal of Southern History, the Blackwell Companion to African-American History and Southern Cultures. An essay in the Journal of Women's HIstory, focused on Nannie Helen Burroughs and her foreign missions work, is forthcoming in the Spring of 2019. Hornsby-Gutting is currently completing a monograph of the National Traning School for Women and Girls, as founded and led by Burroughs.