|Darlene Clark Hine reminds us that black
women, through various church clubs, performed numerous services, even though, especially
in Baptist churches, they did not hold official leadership positions. She
writes that "[w]hen disasters of economic depression, bankruptcy, and disease struck
the black communities in each decade from the collapse of Reconstruction to the Great
Depression in the 1930s, black church women were there to keep communities functioning.
They created orphanages and launched philanthropies to help widows and the aged. They
taught Sunday schools, did missionary work, and participated in endless fund-raising
drives to pay off church mortgages. The church rests most securely upon the backs of black
women" (57). Two speeches delivered at the 1886 and 1887 meetings of the American
National Baptist Convention (ANBC) by Lucy Wilmot Smith and Mary Cook, Kentucky
churchwomen, are considered, along with an essay by Cook, as examples of racial uplift
discourse addressed to black church women. These texts carry the expectation that every
women will contribute what she can to the common goal. They do not so much argue for
racial uplift as for support of its various manifestations. At the same time, both Smith
and Cook were educators.
Speeches and essays from the publications of educational institutions were chosen in acknowledgment of the long-standing value placed on literacy as a means to freedom and opportunity. Education, in the view of black women, also expanded employment options and freed them from the sexual harassment too frequently associated with domestic work. Selected addresses to the second Atlanta University Conference for the Study of Problems Concerning Negro City Life of 1897 reveal the extent to which racial uplift for women was interpreted as education for home uplift. Speeches by Lucy Laney, Adella Hunt Logan, Georgia Swift King, and Selena Sloan Butler serve as sources of evidence. The final section is an analysis of two papers presented at the Hampton Negro Conferences of 1898 and 1899 - Matthews's "Some of the Dangers Confronting Southern Girls in the North" and Laney's "The Burden of the Educated Colored Woman" - and an article by Anna Julia Cooper in the August 1899 Southern Workman and Hampton School Record, "Colored Women as Wage-Earners."