The introduction delineates the overlapping geographies of non-elite black women’s work, black church expansion, and Northern suburbanization. Creating sacred space in a Northern suburb in the wake of southern disenfranchisement and the Plessy v. Ferguson separate but equal ruling thrust domestic servant Violet Johnson onto the path of Christian activism. Though integral to the processes of church expansion and suburbanization in the Northeast, black women’s public presence contravened middle-class Victorian ideals of domesticity and separate spheres, while their activism subverted the ecclesial and political aims of black male church leaders and exposed the economic and structural underpinnings of Northern racial and gender discrimination and segregation. The Northern suburbs in the first half of the twentieth century provide the context for illuminating the interplay of religion and politics, race and gender, space and place within the framework of local and national history.
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