When we think of Black nuns, Whoopi Goldberg’s iconic performance in Sister Act comes to mind. For Dr. Shannen Williams, Goldberg was the ONLY representation of Black nuns growing up, which made her feel erased within Catholicism.
But then she came across these SISTERS!
Williams’ refused to believe there weren’t real Black nuns – so she did extensive research and discovered the truth: white supremacy had erased Black nuns from Catholic history.
Black nuns have a long history – they even predate U.S. emancipation! One of the oldest Black sisterhoods, the Sisters of the Holy Family, was formed in New Orleans in 1842.
The founders of this institution – Sisters Henriette Delille, Mary Lange, and Thea Bowman – were later deemed “worthy of consideration for sainthood.” Another honorable leader was Sister Mary Antona Ebo, who marched with MLK and other Civil Rights activists on “Bloody Sunday.”
Even in 2022 there are only roughly 400 Black nuns out of 40,000 nuns! Further showing that representation matters.
We must remember historically white religions intended to harm us, but enslaved and colonized Africans adopted these religions and made them empowering.
Is there a faith practice you’re wanting to explore but haven’t because of lack of Black representation? Like Williams, we must remind ourselves of all the leaders who have guided us to this divine moment and dive deep into faith.
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