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Black Madonna


“Lee has made a careful introduction for lay readers to the topics of the biblical Mary, Mary in theological imagination, and womanist interpretation. Black Madonna is a small but versatile volume that is invaluable as a primer. Those familiar with the Western tradition of the Madonna will find here challenge and exciting new considerations as Lee puts traditional interpretations in the context of black womanhood, quickening new life in sometimes too-familiar dogmas and devotions.”

Preston Yancey

Author of Out of the House of Bread: Satisfying Your Hunger for God with the Spiritual Disciplines

In this short but powerful book, Courtney Hall Lee invites the reader into reverence for Mary, black and beautiful, and by so doing, lifts up all black women as blessed.

Julia Feder

Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Creighton University

Meet the Author

Courtney Hall Lee


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The figure of the Virgin Mary comes loaded with baggage and preconceptions. She is usually depicted as the perfect, obedient, and highly esteemed woman, much like the Victorian notion of the “angel in the house.” For many black women, nothing could be more inaccessible.

This book considers the relationship between African American women and Mary of Nazareth. After examining the history of black American motherhood during slavery and beyond, this book then gives an overview of the existing views of Mary in both the church and the academy.

Lee then brings African American women and Mary together, creating a womanist Mariology by using womanist biblical and theological interpretation, as well as considering black motherhood during the age of “Black Lives Matter.”

Courtney is a graduate of Dartmouth College and Case Western Reserve University School of Law. She is currently pursuing a graduate certificate at Hartford Seminary. Courtney has been a contributor to Sojourners online and She lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her husband, daughter, and toy poodle.


Acknowledgments | ix


Introduction: Ain’t I a Mother? | xi


Part 1—Black Motherhood: A History


1 Motherhood During American Slavery | 3

2 Still Serving: Domestic Work Post-Slavery | 9

3 Sapphire, Mammy, and Jezebel: Stereotypes of Black Women | 15

Part 2—Traditional Mariology


4 A Mariology Primer | 25

5 The Biblical Mary | 39

6 Maryam: Mary in Islam | 48

7 Mary’s Son: Christology, Virgin Birth, and Mary | 58

8 A Feminist Critique of Mary | 68

Part 3—A Womanist Mariology


9 Stabat Mater Dolorosa: Black Mothers, Slain Children | 79

10 Womanist Theology and Biblical Interpretation | 90

11 Black Bodies and the Virginity Problem | 105

12 Magnificat—A Freedom Song | 114

13 Black Madonna: A Manifesto of a Womanist Mariology | 119

Bibliography |

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