Published between 1835 and 1907, these four narratives share a theme that continues to dominate African-American literature today: the use of Christianity to give strength and comfort in the struggle for liberation from caste and gender restrictions. Widely considered the first American-born woman (black or white) to give a public address, Maria Stewart links the dual concerns of spirituality and freedom in her fiery orations. Jarena Lee, the earliest black female preacher identified with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, offers a stirring account of her religious calling. Julia Foote presents an autobiographical sketch of her experiences as a renowned Ohio evangelist. And, in the last of these inspirational narratives, free-born Virginia Broughton recounts her twenty years as a missionary.
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