Tag Archives: Albert J. Raboteau

Conference to honor Albert J. Raboteau

Of interest to those of us here at Heidelberg who had a chance to study with Prof. Raboteau last year, there is a conference at Princeton being held in his honor. Held at Princeton next month, the conference is called Reflections on the Study of African American Religious History. Talks are organized around the themes of roots, routes, and encounters.

Information on the conference can be found here.

The first James W.C. Pennington Award: Albert J. Raboteau

Albert J. Raboteau, recipient of the first James W.C. Pennington Award.

“I have been moved,” Albert J. Raboteau writes in an essay in A Fire in the Bones,  “by the pervasive faith of black Christians that God was acting in their own history.”

Studying that faith and that history has been Prof. Raboteau’s life work. The Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion at Princeton University, he is the author of the seminal book on Christianity among American slaves, Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South. He has further explored the African-American history of faith in Canaan Land  and African American Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture.

He reflected powerfully on his own relationship to that faith in  A Sorrowful Joy, where Raboteau speaks of his own spiritual journey, and A Fire in the Bones, which opens with a beautiful essay on how faith and history intertwine.

 “History is based on an act of faith, the faith that events are susceptible of meanings,” he writes. “I, as a historian and a believer, cannot but hope that our history is touched by the providence of God.”

Students at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies have had the special opportunity to explore that history with Raboteau this semester in a compact seminar on African-American religion.  Raboteau will also speak of this history in a free public event next week, focusing on the topic of “Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights Movement as Precedent for Religion in U.S. Politics.”

The lecture is open to the public: June 14, at 6:15 p.m., in the Atrium of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, Curt and Heidemarie Engelhorn Palais, Hauptstraße 120. Reception to follow.

Raboteau comes to the HCA as the first recipient of the James W.C. Pennington Award. The award strengthens the ties that bind  the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg to the United States and the international academic community. It was created in 2011 by the Heidelberg Center for American Studies and the Faculty of Theology, honoring the life of James W.C. Pennington. An African-American churchman, abolitionist and pacifist, Pennington received an honorary doctorate from the Ruperto Carola in 1849, the first black man to receive a degree of higher learning in Europe.

Pennington, who wrote what may be the first history of African Americans, The Origin and History of the Colored People, as well as his own autobiographical slave narrative, The Fugitive Blacksmith, holds a special place in the history of the University of Heidelberg, connecting the university to American and specifically African-American history. This award thus pays tribute to Pennington’s work.

The James W.C. Pennington Award is funded by the Dr. h.c. Manfred Lautenschläger Foundation, and is given to scholars who have done distinguished work on the African-American experience in the Atlantic world. The award fosters further research on topics important to Pennington.

The university and the HCA are honored to give the first award to Raboteau, who carries on the history and tradition of Pennington.

Pennington, writing his own history in 1849, the same year he was given an honorary doctorate in Heidelberg, noted exactly the kind of faith in history that has so inspired Raboteau:

“The limits of this work compel me to pass over many interesting incidents which occurred,” Pennington wrote. “I must confine myself only to those which will show the striking providence of God.”

— Daniel Silliman

Summer Semester 2012

The University of Heidelberg’s Summer Semester is quickly approaching, and students interested in American religious history have several excellent and rare opportunities:

1. Prof. Albert J. Raboteau, a leading scholar in African American religion in America, will teach a compact seminar with Prof. Jan Stievermann in the end of May, beginning of June, covering the major themes and most important moments in African American religious history, from the colonial period to the present.

2. Prof. Kenneth Minkema, Executive Director of the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University, and Prof. Rachael Wheeler, an Indiana University specialist on the Moravians in North America, will team up with Prof. Stievermann to teach a compact seminar on the culture of mission in earl America.

More information about both classes is available on the events page.

To register, e-mail Prof. Stievermann @ jstievermann@hca.uni-heidelberg.de

In addition to those unique offerings, Prof. Stievermann will be lecturing on the history of Christianity in American from 1900 to the present.

From the course description:

“Always with an eye on the wider cultural context, the course will trace the dramatic changes in America’s religious landscape during this period, and examine central events, issues, and conflicts such as the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, religious responses to two world wars, the rise of neo-evangelicalism, or the role of religion in the civil right struggles and the so-called culture wars. While special attention will be given to the transformations of America’s Christian churches, we will also discuss the increasing religious pluralization of the US and look at the development of non-Christian immigrant faiths and the emergence of new religious movements and individualistic spiritualities.”

Daniel Silliman will also be teaching a class on the history of American pentecostalism. An intro course, Silliman’s class will look to position pentecostalism in its American context.

As the course description states:

“To the casual observer, American pentecostalism may well appear to be the most bewildering of contemporary forms of Christianity. Whether it’s snake handlers or prosperity preachers, healing miracles preformed on television or the exorcism of demons on the radio, “speaking in tongues,” being “slain in the spirit,” or just extraordinarily exuberant prayer, American Pentecostalism seems completely foreign to the culture around it. Yet, it emerged from and exists in that context. American pentecostalism is deeply embedded in 20th century American history. Pushing past the apparent strangeness, this class will examine the pentecostal movement in the United States, looking at its cultural  relationships, and its history, beliefs and practices, paying special attention to ways these illuminate America’s recent past.”

It looks to be an excellent — and very busy — Summer Semester for American Religion at the University of Heidelberg.