Labyrinth Books, Princeton University’s African American Studies Program, and the Comparative Literature Department at Princeton University invite you to celebrate and discuss the first English translation of the earliest-known book-length biography of an African woman, and one of the few lives of an African woman written by Africans before the nineteenth century. Please join us.
Wendy Belcher’s translation provides an exceedingly rare and valuable picture of the experiences and thoughts of Africans, especially women, before the modern era. It is also an extraordinary account of a remarkable life--full of vivid dialogue, heartbreak, and triumph. The Life and Struggles of Our Mother Walatta Petros (1672) tells the story of an Ethiopian saint who led a successful nonviolent movement to preserve African Christian beliefs in the face of European protocolonialism. When the Jesuits tried to convert the Ethiopians from their ancient form of Christianity, Walatta Petros (1592-1642), a noblewoman and the wife of one of the emperor's counselors, risked her life by leaving her husband, who supported the conversion effort, and leading the struggle against the Jesuits. After her death, her disciples wrote this book, praising her as a friend of women, a devoted reader, a skilled preacher, and a radical leader.
One of the earliest stories of African resistance to European influence, this biography also provides a picture of domestic life, including Walatta Petros's life-long relationship with a female companion.
Wendy Laura Belcher is associate professor in the Department of Comparative Literature and the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University. She is the author of Abyssinia’s Samuel Johnson and Honey from the Lion: An African Journey. Judith Weisenfeld is Professor of Religion and African American Studies at Princeton. She is the author of African American Women and Christian Activism and of Hollywood Be Thy Name: African American Religion in American Film 1929-1949.