Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)


School of Education


Special Education


Special Education EdD

First Advisor

Emily Nusbaum

Second Advisor

Candice Harrison

Third Advisor

Nicola McClung


Events are taking place in the United States today regarding blackness, gender, disability, and Christianity, and the perceived place of those with black and brown bodies. Current efforts have focused on blackness and gender, blackness and disability, gender and disability, and disability and Christianity; but there has not been concerted efforts focusing on the historical intersections of blackness, gender, disability, and Christianity and how these intersections help in understanding the contemporary black social movement and the climate in which we now live.

The purpose of this qualitative study sought to understand the narratives of Christian mission agencies and how African-American Christian women in the late 1800s and early 1900s were shaped by these narratives. The study also sought to understand how these women perpetuated and resisted the idea of these narratives in Liberia, Congo, and Nyasaland and the implications for black women in today’s America.

There are several major findings of this study: (1) White mission agencies misrepresented Africans as disabled, dependent, and uncivilized and in need of civilizing, (2) African-American Christian female missionaries’ lived experiences in Africa changed over time, from affirming white Christian mission agencies false representations about Africans to refuting those representations, and (3) African-American Christian missionaries posed threats to the political, gender, and social hierarchy of white missionaries in Africa.

In light of the findings, as Giddings remarked, black women “must search our history for an answer to the question, who are we as ourselves…the faith in progress that our forebears taught was not only in terms of our status in society, but in our ability to gain increasing control of our own lives”. It may be a new beginning for all, as a modern-day rendering of Isaiah reads, in part – “Those who are oppressed will be encouraged and enabled to free themselves. Abilities rather than disabilities will be what counts. All who are blind to their own and others’ oppression will come to new insights. And God will pardon all at the jubilee. That is liberation.”