Event Title

Evangelizing Political and Social Change for Nineteenth Century African American People: A Reading of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw’s Spiritual Autobiography Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labors of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw

Location

Panel 09: Kearney 310

Start Date

27-10-2012 8:30 AM

End Date

27-10-2012 10:00 AM

Description

In her spiritual autobiography, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labors of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw (1846), Zilpha Elaw discusses her early childhood experiences with religion in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Elaw eventually became an itinerant preacher in the evangelical tradition of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Although Elaw was an evangelist influenced by the cultural/spiritual forces surrounding her, she was not in lock step with the founding fathers of the AME Church. In her spiritual autobiography, much of her account of her preaching and teaching emerges from her own particular life circumstances in relationship to her gender and position as a black woman in mid-nineteenth century America.

In this presentation, I contextualize the political/social protest in Mrs. Elaw’s autobiography within the negotiated tensions with the dominant white culture, within the texts that structure the beginnings of the AME Church, and within proscriptions about appropriate gender roles within the Church. I argue that Mrs. Elaw was resolute in using prophesy and evangelism to protest political realities and encourage action running against the grain of popular thought, both in the dominant white culture and in her own African American community. In this process, she stood resolutely for what she believed was morally and scripturally correct–that women could and should preach the gospel and that African American people should stand resolute for moral political and social action, exhorting her reading audience to become galvanized to this end.

Elaw’s position emerges from the ways she reports her practice of everyday life. Michel de Certeau’s theoretical framework developed in The Practice of Everyday Life (1984) is useful in describing her call for resistance/protest as one triply outside the realm of power [by virtue of her being 1) a person of color; 2) a woman; and 3) an evangelist]. She made use of the discourses of the dominant in order to create a sphere of autonomy to evangelize political and social change. Mrs. Elaw’s Christian rhetoric will be analyzed through John Wesley’s holistic understanding of Christianity, through the lens of what is now known as the “Wesleyan quadrilateral” (tradition, reason, experience, and scripture).

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Oct 27th, 8:30 AM Oct 27th, 10:00 AM

Evangelizing Political and Social Change for Nineteenth Century African American People: A Reading of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw’s Spiritual Autobiography Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labors of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw

Panel 09: Kearney 310

In her spiritual autobiography, Memoirs of the Life, Religious Experience, Ministerial Travels and Labors of Mrs. Zilpha Elaw (1846), Zilpha Elaw discusses her early childhood experiences with religion in Pennsylvania. Mrs. Elaw eventually became an itinerant preacher in the evangelical tradition of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. Although Elaw was an evangelist influenced by the cultural/spiritual forces surrounding her, she was not in lock step with the founding fathers of the AME Church. In her spiritual autobiography, much of her account of her preaching and teaching emerges from her own particular life circumstances in relationship to her gender and position as a black woman in mid-nineteenth century America.

In this presentation, I contextualize the political/social protest in Mrs. Elaw’s autobiography within the negotiated tensions with the dominant white culture, within the texts that structure the beginnings of the AME Church, and within proscriptions about appropriate gender roles within the Church. I argue that Mrs. Elaw was resolute in using prophesy and evangelism to protest political realities and encourage action running against the grain of popular thought, both in the dominant white culture and in her own African American community. In this process, she stood resolutely for what she believed was morally and scripturally correct–that women could and should preach the gospel and that African American people should stand resolute for moral political and social action, exhorting her reading audience to become galvanized to this end.

Elaw’s position emerges from the ways she reports her practice of everyday life. Michel de Certeau’s theoretical framework developed in The Practice of Everyday Life (1984) is useful in describing her call for resistance/protest as one triply outside the realm of power [by virtue of her being 1) a person of color; 2) a woman; and 3) an evangelist]. She made use of the discourses of the dominant in order to create a sphere of autonomy to evangelize political and social change. Mrs. Elaw’s Christian rhetoric will be analyzed through John Wesley’s holistic understanding of Christianity, through the lens of what is now known as the “Wesleyan quadrilateral” (tradition, reason, experience, and scripture).