In the early days in northern Africa, the Church was a stronghold of Christianity for some centuries, until the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. Some of the major heresies of the early Church were started and fought out in North Africa, such as the Arian and Donatist heresies. Some of the major Church Fathers were from North Africa - St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Cyrpian, St. Athanasius, and St. Cyril of Alexandria. Monasticism is believed to have started in Egypt, which is in northern Africa. North Africa made major contributions to the Church in the early days; Christianity came to the other parts of Africa when Europeans began colonizing the continent.
Dr. Camille Lewis Brown put this book to together in the beginning as part of her course at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia to teach seminarians and others about African or black Catholics. Some of the early African saints, like St. Augustine and his mother, St. Monica, may or may not have been black-skinned. Many of the Christians from northern Africa, like St. Cyprian and St. Athanasius, were of Roman heritage - which means most likely they were white-skinned. Dr. Brown mentions some of these saints but also notes that they might have been white-skinned Africans.
Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary bishop of Chicago, provides the foreword, and Dr. Brown provides the introduction which sets the stage and reasoning as to why she set about researching black saints and holy people. Most of the book deals with people who have been declared by the Church to be saints, blessed, or venerable; the remainder focuses on people whom Dr. Brown and others consider candidates for sainthood.
Some of the saints and other personages she presents are St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Josephine Bakhita, St. Benedict the Moor, Pope St. Gelasius I, St. Charles Lwanga and his Companions, St. Antony, St. Martin de Porres, St. Moses the Black, Bl. Marie Clementine Anuarite Negapeta, Blesseds Daudi Okelo and Jildo Irwa, and others. Those she includes in the second part (whom she considers worthy of canonization) are Mother Mathilda Beasley, Dr. Lena Edwards, Mother Emma Lewis, Fr. Augustus Tolton, and others. Three appendices include a calendar of selected saints, a litany of African saints, and a map of modern-day Africa. Brown’s bibliography includes not only books but also websites and other sources, notes, and an index.
Each of the forty entries includes
She concludes the entry with a short reflection for the reader to ponder - this book is meant not only for informational purposes but also to provide material to meditate or pray with the holy person(s). She has done a great job in all these areas. The cover of the book with its African motif to is quite colorful - oranges, tans, blacks and browns. The entries are very readable for both scholars and general readers. This book is highly recommended to those who may want to use this book as an introduction to the study of black or African saints and holy people. It is also recommended to those interested more generally in saints and holy people.
- the name or names of the holy person(s), dates, and feast day on a sidebar
- a short biography of the saint(s) (they vary in length
- quotes from the saint(s) when available
- a quote from scripture that connects with the saint
- a prayer to the saint(s)
Dr. Camille Lewis Brown is the education coordinator of the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island. She holds a B.A. in history from Franklin and Marshall College, an M.A. in theology from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, and a Ph.D. in educational administration from Boston College. She founded the Bakhita Fund, a nonprofit organization designed to provide educational assistance to children around the world. She is the author of Recipe for Change: Consolidation and Restructuring (2005).