Brief Book Review: Black Madonna

Black Madonna: A Womanist Look at Mary of Nazareth
by Courtney Hall Lee

Who should read this?  Anyone who is open to a broader and deeper appreciation of Mary of Nazareth.

What is the main point?  Because Mary of Nazareth is often both diminished and dismissed as a result of stereotypes imposed on her, Lee weaves a more accurate tapestry of her, making her accessible to today’s reader.

What intrigued me the most?  Mary is mentioned by name more often in the Qu’ran than in the New Testament. Lee helps the reader understand how Mary is reverenced in Islam where she is considered one of Islam’s four examples of supreme womanhood.

What will most inspire you?  The chapter “Stabat Mater Dolorosa” focused on Black mothers of slain children is powerful and painful, especially when we see how their mothers are treated by society. Echoes of the Lenten hymn and visions of the Pieta accompanied me as I read.

Kudos for the breadth of scholarship Lee brings to this small but hefty book. She draws on the work of renowned biblical scholars and historians of religion and culture. Most instructive is the focus on lives of women in the Jim Crow South. Mary’s Magnificat takes on a new energy as a Freedom Song. The expansive bibliography and index of ancient documents were much appreciated.

Lee, Courtney Hall. Black Madonna: A Womanist Look at Mary of Nazareth. Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, an imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2017. 150 pages.


Dr. Julia Upton, R.S.M. is Distinguished Professor of Theology and Provost Emerita at St. John’s University in New York City.

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