A Memoir of Spirit, Activism, and Mothering


Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 17 illustrations Published: May 2015

African American Studies and Black Diaspora, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Religious Studies

An activist influential in the civil rights movement, Rosemarie Freeney Harding’s spirituality blended many traditions, including southern African American mysticism, Anabaptist Christianity, Tibetan Buddhism, and Afro-Brazilian Candomblé. Remnants, a multigenre memoir, demonstrates how Freeney Harding's spiritual life and social justice activism were integral to the instincts of mothering, healing, and community-building. Following Freeney Harding’s death in 2004, her daughter Rachel finished this decade-long collaboration, using recorded interviews, memories of her mother, and her mother's journal entries, fiction, and previously published essays.


“Rosemarie Harding never achieved the iconic status of Rosa Parks or Martin Luther King Jr. Yet she made many significant contributions to the civil rights movement, especially in the work she did to connect spirituality to the larger project of social justice. . . . A wise and humane memoir.” — Kirkus Reviews

“[A] spirited compilation of ecumenical history, folk wisdom, fiction, memoir, and poetry. . . . The central message of Harding’s life is abiding love, passed down through generations, strengthened in the aftermath of grief, racial terrorism, and trauma. The book also tells the unusual story of Mennonite House, a pioneering center of interracial activism in Atlanta co-founded by Harding and her husband, and offers other insights that shape its powerful narrative.” — Publishers Weekly

"Co-authored by Rachel and her late mother, [Remnants] is in its very composition both intimate and collaborative. ...It is a book of returning to the source as a resource for the future and present. There are lessons about human connection and resilience, and our capacities to be better to one another. Out of the particulars of these two lives, a window opens into Black life more broadly, in all of its complexity and interconnectedness with the vast networks of humanity." — Imani Perry, Public Books

"Remnants will appeal to those who are interested in religion and social transformation. Social change advocates, justice seekers, grassroots organizers, nonviolent revolutionaries, race critical theorists, theologians, clergy, historians, womanists, ethicists, ancl educators will all find gems within Remnants.... Remnants provides hope for a better humanity." — Dean J. Johnson, Mennonite Quarterly Review

"Remnants is an extraordinary gift. It is a kind of Rosetta Stone of the African American Woman's soul—all the 'remnants,' the bits and pieces Rosemarie carefully saved, remembered, nurtured, in her ancestors, relatives, and self coming together in this extremely useful compendium of wisdom, of sureness and insight that we will be able to use for generations to come." — Alice Walker

"A unique and provocative crossover text, Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Rachel Elizabeth Harding's Remnants troubles the boundaries of authorship, of genre, of discipline, of voice and agency. It hovers at the boundaries of the sacred and secular, but knits them together in the daily lives of practitioners and communities for whom a division is untenable, unthinkable even. It impels us to think deeply about the meaning of politics and the kinds of hidden intimacies that make committed public engagement possible, without succumbing to the unhelpful public/private binary. We need the stories of the kinds that are recounted here." — M. Jacqui Alexander, author of Pedagogies of Crossing: Meditations on Feminism, Sexual Politics, Memory, and the Sacred

"I could not put this book down.  It is a work of love and a testament to the power of love between a mother and her daughter and an abiding belief in the possibilities we have to help create a more loving, humane world.  This is a book of astounding beauty and wisdom.  This is a memoir that encourages us to live into our best self. It is a read more than worthy of your time and will linger in your head and heart."
— Emilie M. Townes, author of Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rosemarie Freeney Harding (1930–2004) was an organizer, teacher, social worker, and cofounder of Mennonite House, an early integrated community center in Atlanta. She also cofounded the Veterans of Hope Project at the Iliff School of Theology.

Rachel Elizabeth Harding, daughter of Rosemarie Freeney Harding and Vincent Harding, is Associate Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions in the Ethnic Studies Department at the University of Colorado, Denver, and author of A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword: Daughter's Précis / Rachel E. Harding  ix

1. (the light)  1

I. Ground  5

2. Rye's Rites (poem)  7

3. Grandma Rye  9

4. There Was a Tree in Starkville . . .  15

5. Daddy's Mark  21

6. Joe Daniels: Getting Unruly  24

7. The Side of the Road  29

8. Papa's Girl  32

II. North  41

9. Snow and Spring in Woodlawn  43

10. Shirley Darden  52

11. Brother Bud's Death  54

12. Death, Dreams, and Secrecy: Things We Carried  57

13. Season  63

14. Elegant Cousins and Original Beauty  66

15. Warmth  71

16. Altgeld Gardens  75

17. Hot Rolls (short fiction)  82

18. Looking for Work  92

19. The Nursing Test  96

20.  In Loco Parentis (short fiction)  97

21. Mama Freeney and the Haints  107

22. Height  113

III. South  115

23. Hospitality, Haints, and Healing: African American Indigenous Religion and Activism  117

24. Mennonite House in Atlanta  127

25. The Next-Door Neighbor  137

26. Traveling for the Movement  140

27. Koinonia Farm: Cultivating Conviction  144

28. A Radical Compassion: His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Clarence Jordan, and Marion King-Jackson  155

29. A Song in the Time of Dying: A Memory of Bernice Johnson Reagon  163

30. The Blood House (a story outline)  165

31. Spirit and Struggle: The Mysticism of the Movement  168

IV. The Dharamsala Notebook  179

32. Sunrise after Delhi (poem)  181

33. The Dharamsala Notebook I  182

34. The Dharamsala Notebook II  194

V. Bunting 199

35. The Bunting  201

36. The Workshops and Retreats: Ritual, Remembering, and Medicine  217

VI. The Pachamama Circle  227

37. Pachamama Circle I: Rachel's Dream  229

38. Pachamama Circle II: Sue Bailey Thurman and the Harriets  231

39. Pachamama Circle III: A Choreography of Mothering  237

40. Mama and the Gods  241

AfterWords  243

41. Fugida: Poem for Oyá  245

42. Class Visits: Love, White Southerners, and Black Exceptionalism  247

43. A Little Wind  265

44. (the Call)  268

Appendix: Rosemarie's Genealogies  271

Acknowledgments  283

Index  287
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