2012 Grawemeyer Award in Religion

The book traces the ideas about the relationship between African American religion and African American political involvement. That is, shows the ways in which black people have argued amongst themselves for over a century about the public role that black churches ought to play, that is beyond simply providing a very important spiritual resource, how are the ways in which black people have also thought about a broader public responsibility and a broader public duty for black religious institutions. I was very happy and honored and in some ways I felt, actually, that it vindicated the work. Not vindicated in terms of vindicating my work, but of vindicating the people I was writing about and the people I had been researching, because part of what I was trying to do was to bring back to life a whole group of folks who were very thoughtful on questions about religion and politics and who had been lost to history, but who I thought deserved to be brought back into our consciousness and also to have us be reminded of their examples of courage and commitment. In the days that I’ve been here on campus and also at the seminary have been very impressed by the longevity and the legacy of the award itself and not just the ways it will encourage more scholarship and more commitments, but also as a very particular kind of philanthropy that really is not, um, that really is dedicated to the pursuit of ideas and the importance of ideas, even if we don’t all agree about them and really leading the way and having broader civic involvement and community involvement with thinking about ideas for the sake of learning and learning together.

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