In search for honest leadership in the church she wrote “Character is the first qualification,” without that, the minister is a menace.” She stated that ministers should have a clean and unselfish purpose, be innovative, dedicated to the issues of the community, sincere in their mission and not lazy.
In effort to stay true to her vision for black women, Burroughs introduced “Womens Day” to the National Baptist Convention in 1901. The idea was to incorporate women from congregations and train them to publicly speak. Burroughs was successful in this attempt. Womens Day became a part of every African-American denomination and congregation.
Burroughs was adamant in her search for racial uplift. It was her position that hard work and manual labor meant self-worth. It was her womanist attitude that fought for the acknowledgement of the working poor. She felt that value and strong work ethic could improve racial turmoil. To confront the struggle of gaining justice, Burroughs advised black women to believe in their ability and power to change negative conditions. She believed that education and job training would give them power and opportunity to participate in the laws of society.
It was Burroughs goal to dismiss the notion that black women were lazy, to build confidence and self-esteem in the image of black women, enhance employment, and train them to realize Gods will. She asserted her vision by building an institution that would model her vision for black women.
Burroughs first opportunity to realize her dream came from the support of the Foreign Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention when offered a job as a secretary. This opportunity enabled her to plan and become president of the National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls in Washington D.C., in 1909. Her motto “We specialize in the wholly impossible.”
Burroughs National Trade and Professional school was attended by daughters of working class African-Americans. During this time of social divide among African-Americans. Whereas African-Americans were struggling for equal treatment in America, African-Americans were struggling with social status among themselves. Burroughs school educated women to become confident members of the working world by training them to become waitresses, secretaries, and business owners.
According to Sharon Harley, feminist and historian, Burroughs work remains undocumented in despite of her courageous contributions toward the advancement of African-American Women.
Rebecca Jackson was born in 1795 to a free family in Philadelphia. She was a visionary writer who was influential in incorporating the womanist philosophy in the church. Left to care for her siblings at a young age while her mother worked, a formal education was out of reach. Jackson learned early on the value of hard work. It was through her visionary guidance and religious faith that she was able to teach herself how to read and write.
Jackson became a preacher and active with the Shaker (the United Society of Believers in Christs Second Appearing) movement. The Shakers were found by a small group in England in 1747 at a Quaker revival.
Their mission was equal rights for all people. It was their doctrine that God was both man and women. They enforced celibacy among its members and housed married couples separately in their commune.
The group was led by a women name Ann Lee, who later became known as Mother Ann by followers. Like Jackson, Ann Lee was illiterate and believed that God spoke to her through dreams. She believed that through those dreams she assumed mystic powers by God. Jacksons vision implied that it was a white male God and African-American-haired woman and the Holy Mother Wisdom present in her dreams that guided her feminist mission.
Jackson declared in her writings, “Oh, how I love thee, my mother. I did not know that I had a mother. She was with me, though I knew it not, but now I know her and she said I should do her work in this city, which is to make known the mother of the new creation of God. And none can come to God in the new birth but through Christ the Father and through Christ the Mother and then I could also see how often I had been led, comforted, and counseled in time of trial by a tender mother and knowed it not.”
Inspired by the Shaker movement, Jackson found and led a group in Philadelphia that included white members. Her belief in the doctrines of the Shakers drew controversy among the churches, however; it is noted that the community survived 40 years after her death in 1871. In her writings Jackson expressed, “I am only a pen in His hand.” It was Jacksons belief that nothing was more powerful than this force, which defined her character and existence.
She trusted that her faith would guide and protect her. It was through her writings that Jackson could manifest the sacred force she was given; the gift to be a visionary and in control of her destiny.
Jacksons level of devotion and salvation in life enabled her to develop leadership skills and challenge the male- dominated African-American churches. It was her dependence on her spiritual gift that gave her wisdom and courage to pursue her career as a religious leader.
In that she practiced abstinence, she believed it was her spiritual faith that allowed her to confront the shame directed towards her.
In her writings, Jackson describes how marriage was a conflict of interest with her calling. Though the relationships with her husband and brother were influential in shaping her career, she remained devoted to the power that transformed her life. She set a goal to educate and protect herself while realizing the realms of her vision.
The self-development of women and African-Americans in the Evangelical religion became difficult and changed America. In Jacksons writing “My Burden Rolled Off: The Religious Experience of a Free African-American,” the Methodist women were deeply rooted with enthusiasm that spread out over the northeastern United States in the first four decades of the century. The Second Great Awakening gave women the opportunity, and a religious obligation, to gain experience in public speaking. Experiencing equality at a fundamental level in the religious realm, some would be led to demand it in the civic realm as well. Moreover, the conviction that human institutions, like human souls, could be reformed, even “perfected,” by human effort under benevolent divine guidance was a prerequisite for the outburst of moral and social reform activity of the 1820s and 1830s.
In her writings “Gifts of Power,” Jackson documents her spiritual journey. She describes her experiences and dreams relating to the gifts of power obtained through prayer. Her dreams and spiritual powers enabled her to confront racial and sexual concerns and allowed her to confront relationships that she considered unhealthy towards realizing her vision.
Walker described this literature as “an extraordinary document,” which “tells us much about the spirituality of human beings, especially of the interior spiritual resources of our mothers.” Writing of Jacksons relationship to Perot, Walker coined the term “womanism” to distinguish a specifically black feminist cultural tradition that includes womens love for other women but is not “separatist.”
Mary Virginia Cook was born a slave in Bowling Green Kentucky in 1862. With the support of her husband, William J. Simmons and three white women from the north, she was afforded an education. The opportunity to get an education eased the path for her to preach for the rights of women and justice for all.
Cook characterized as a sophisticated and intelligent black woman, mingled among the elite society in Kentucky. Though the struggle for black people continued during this period, Cook received admiration from African-Americans and whites for her efforts towards achieving racial uplift. She was an advocate for education, a strong business women and a prominent member of the Baptist faith.
In 1892, she addressed the State Legislature. She joined forces with three other women to protest against the enactment of the Separate Coach Law
, also known as the Jim Crow law, which demanded separation of African-American and white passengers on trains.
After graduating from the university, Cook wrote articles for African-American publications, produced an anthology, and spoke for various organizations with the backing of the Baptist Womens Home Mission Society and the all-African-American National Baptist Convention. In 1893 she addressed the Educational Congress regarding the concerns and issues of African-American women. In 1895 she was appointed Commissioner of the State of Kentucky to the Womens Congress. She delivered a speech
Along with 20 men, she was a member of the executive board of the National Baptist Educational Convention. She served as editor of the womens column of the Louisville American Baptist. Cook was an active participant of the Womens Convention (WC) founded in 1900. WC was a chapter of the National Baptist Convention (NBC). Members of the convention nurtured the community with home visits, providing clothing for the needy, aiding.