Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies ETDs

Publication Date



This ethnography describes the function of Christianity in the lives of three uncelebrated well-educated African American women. The women are members of academia who hold doctorate degrees. The study gives insight into the function of Christianity in the private and professional lives of the participants. Although their experiences were diverse, the participants were of one accord in understanding Christianity as a coping strategy that provided them with a mechanism to read and interpret the events of their lives.

Womanism is a way of giving name to the lived experiences of African American women. All of the participants shared stories about themselves, their values, and their professions thereby giving voice and perspective to their experiences. Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker is credited with coining the term womanism. Walker's definition divides the experiences of African American women into four primary categories: love of oneself, love of community, love of inquisitiveness and love of spirit.

The two areas of Walker's definition that evoked the most discussion in this study were love of community and love of spirit. The participants all have a strong commitment to community. The first communities they experienced were family and church. Their earlier communities functioned through a hierarchical structure that was gender based. The hierarchical gendered social order was a systematic way of approaching life. The community also functioned as a means of cooperative empowerment. When the concept of spiritual connectedness is fully considered, spirit also includes community of human and spirit worlds. According to one participant God gives humans a vision to witness perfection and goodness. Christ is the vision that allows humans to witness goodness.

Document Type




Degree Name

Language, Literacy and Sociocultural Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

Language, Literacy, and Sociocultural Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Lucretia E. Pence

Second Committee Member

Rebecca Blum-Martinez

Third Committee Member

James Noel

Fourth Committee Member

Ernest Stringer