On the Lived Theology Reading List: Walk With Me

A Biography of Fannie Lou Hamer

Offering a fresh and stirring reappraisal of Fannie Lou Hamer’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement, this book draws on new interviews and fresh archival material to bring to life one of the most iconic figures of the Civil Rights Movement. Bestselling New York Time author Kate Clifford Larson offers this fresh and comprehensive biography for every reader.

Born the 20th child in a family deeply entrenched in the Mississippi Delta, first as enslaved people and then as sharecroppers, Hamer left school at 12 to pick cotton, entering a world in which white supremacy reigned. Despite a world in which she was subjected without her consent to an operation that deprived her of children and where she was denied the right to cast a ballot, Hamer refused to be repressed.

Hamer was an irresistible force in the Civil Rights Movement, lifting up her voice to propel change. Recruited by the Student NonViolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to help with voter-registration drives, Hamer became a community organizer, women’s rights activist, and co-founder of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. Using her anger, courage, and faith in the Bible, she believed that hearts could be won over and injustice overcome. Hamer was the embodiment of protest, persevering through difficult times to ultimately transform lives and create revolutionary change. Walk With Me is the most complete biography on Fannie Lou Hamer ever written, capturing her full spirit and voice that led the fight for freedom and equality in America at its critical moment.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Accessible and moving, Larson’s account offers history’s best gifts-context and complexity-to readers who want a better grasp of the trajectory of voting rights in our nation’s past.”
Christianity Today

“‘Walk With Me’ is a gripping and skillfully researched political biography that embeds Hamer’s personal history within a compelling account of the post-World War II civil rights movement.”
The New York Times

“Scholar Kate Clifford Larson, author of ‘Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero,’ has penned the definitive biography of civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.”
Atlanta Journal Constitution, “10 must-read Southern books this fall”

“This biography of Fannie Lou Hamer, the civil-rights advocate who challenged Mississippi segregationists with her powerful oratory and ‘unforgettable’ singing, places grassroots organizing by women at the heart of the battle for Black enfranchisement.”
The New Yorker


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On the Lived Theology Reading List: Until I Am Free

Fannie Lou Hamer’s Enduring Message to America

Award-winning historian and New York Times best-selling author Keisha N. Blain powerfully blends social commentary, biography, and intellectual history in Until I Am Free. This book is essential reading for anyone committed to social justice. The book expands the voice of working-poor and disabled Black woman activist Fannie Lou Hamer, an intellectual icon of the civil rights movement, challenging the reader as we continue to navigate contemporary concerns around race, inequality, and social justice.

Despite the many challenges and limitations she endured as a poor Black woman living in the South, Hamer was committed to making a difference in the lives of others. She was not intimidated by anyone with higher social status, better education, or prestigious jobs. She refused to be set aside and instead used her words and ideas to take center stage. Her activist’s voice comes through with strength on these pages, as if we have the privilege to sit right beside her as she fights for justice.

As a new generation of activists commit to dismantling systems of oppression worldwide, the author situates Hamer among other historical leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.; Malcolm X; and Rosa Parks, showing how her ideas are just as important today. More than 40 years since her death, her words still speak truth to power, exposing the faults in American society and providing valuable insights on how the nation can live up to its ideals of “equality and justice for all.”

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“Blain backs up her trenchant analysis with extensive research and relevant quotes from her subject. The scholarly text brims with heart, and the author’s affection for Hamer infuses every line. Readers will walk away both informed and inspired . . . . A highly readable, poignant study of the life and influence of a civil rights legend.”
Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review

“[A] vivid, passionate biography. . . . the author’s rightful and infectious admiration of Hamer shines through on every page. Until I Am Free is a must-have for readers interested in American history and civil rights activism.”
Booklist, Starred Review

“As talented a storyteller and cultural critic as she is a historian, Keisha Blain has written a history of Fannie Lou Hamer that also challenges readers to look to her legacy as a guide for tackling current issues of voter suppression, state-sanctioned violence, women’s inequality, and racism.”
Ms. Magazine, “Most Anticipated Reads for the Rest Us – 2021”


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Theology Now!

We’re excited to be launching a new space for commentary and exchange of ideas. Thank you for your patience as we put the finishing touches on “Theology Now!” More soon!


The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

PLT Seeks Undergraduate Research Fellow

Project on Lived Theology Logo

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world. We are seeking a work-study student for a variety of tasks, including general office organization, website postings, archival organization, video and audio content processing, and other tasks as they arise. Hours are flexible.

Preferred Experience & Qualifications:

  • Ability to perform many different tasks.    
  • Strong organizational skills.
  • Excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • Website experience.
  • Proficiency in Microsoft Office Suite.
  • Video and audio content processing

$14/hour

To apply, please send a resume and cover letter to Jessica Seibert, Operations Manager: jrs6dd@virginia.edu

PLT Awards Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowships

The Project on Lived Theology has accepted eight UVA students to its Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship in Lived Theology. The fellows will conduct research, think, and write theologically on questions related to the social repercussions of theological commitments. Each fellow will receive a $3,000 stipend. We hope to share details about the 2022 fellowship application process in November or December 2021, so be sure to check our website for any updates.

Karen Cortez

Project: The role of Christian and Evangelical organizations in uplifting those marginalized by socioeconomic status

“I am a rising fourth year, double majoring in youth and social innovation and English, with a minor in Religious Studies. My journey into the field of religious studies began with a last-minute switch into a prophecy class the spring of my first year, and I’ve found every class I’ve taken since then to be a very fulfilling and integral part of my time at school. On Grounds, I am primarily involved with the Navigators at UVA, and SEEK, an inter-fellowship organization that aims to foster unity and celebrate the diversity present amongst all the Christian organizations at UVA.”

Sophia Gibson

Project: The participation of St. Paul’s Memorial Church (Charlottesville, Va.) in the Civil Rights Movement from 1954 to 1968

“I’m a rising fourth year, majoring in political & social thought and religious studies. At UVA, I am the senior warden of The University Fellowship, the president of the Virginia Interfaith Coalition, a head program director for youth mentoring at Madison House, and an investigator for the University Judiciary Committee. Outside of UVA, I’m an intern with a local nonprofit, The Fountain Fund, and an active member at St. Paul’s Memorial Church. In my free time, I love long walks, chats, and laughs with friends.”

Josh Heman-Ackah

Project: Creation of a digital exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia

“I am an undergraduate student at UVA, where I study biochemistry and religious studies. After graduating with the Class of 2021, I will continue research within the UVA Department of Chemistry, investigating the deuteration of pharmaceutical drugs to increase their efficacy and safety. In my free time, I love to exercise, watch movies with close friends, and serve in my local church and community.”

Siana Monet

Project: An ethnographic study, with the Blacksburg (Va.) Friends, about how Quaker practice has changed during COVID-19

“I’m a fourth-year religious studies distinguished major at UVA, where I have focused on the spiritual aspects of Himalayan healing traditions. In my spare time, I enjoy backpacking, cooking Tibetan food, and watching B-grade horror films. I look forward to pursuing a career in academia and intend to study Buddhist traditions and philosophy of religion at Harvard Divinity School in the fall.”

Rachel Olson

Project: Creation of a digital exhibit on the Civil Rights Movement in Virginia 

“I am a fourth-year religious studies major at UVA, where I am on a pre-medical track. I serve as president of UVA’s Daniel-Hale Williams Pre-Health Society and as a peer advisor for UVA’s Office of African-American Affairs. I volunteer at The Haven, a multi-resource day shelter in downtown Charlottesville.”

Madeline Pannell

Project: Interviews with Chinese international students at UVA to learn more about the experience of Chinese and Chinese Americans with American Christianity 

“I’m a third-year student at UVA, majoring in East Asian Studies. For the past two years, I’ve also been working with the Center for Digital Editing, researching the enslaved community of George Washington’s Mount Vernon and developing digital humanities projects. With this summer fellowship, I’m looking forward to incorporating my interdisciplinary studies of China with my passion for theological scholarship.”

Malia Sample

Project: What racial justice (in relation to the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement, and the Atlanta shootings) means to faith 

“I am a third year studying kinesiology, and I will be getting my master’s in kinesiology for individuals with disabilities here at UVA next year. In my free time, I enjoy exploring the parks in Charlottesville and paddle boarding. I am so grateful to be a part of the Project on Lived Theology this summer and to learn more about the intersection of faith and life and how I can incorporate faith in how I see the world to make it a more just and equitable place.”

Annie Webber

Project: How lived religion has played a role in the Black Lives Matter movement

“I’m majoring in Medical Anthropology, and my hometown is Charlottesville, Virginia. I am involved in The University Fellowship at UVA and The Haven in Charlottesville. In my spare time, I like to play racquetball, go on walks with friends, and bake.”

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

PLT Provides UVA Graduate Students with Grants

In response to the challenges facing many young scholars during the pandemic, the Project on Lived Theology is pleased to provide funding to thirty current graduate students in the University of Virginia’s Department of Religious Studies. Each funding recipient has been awarded a $500 stipend in support of his or her research, writing, and professional needs. We are excited to see how their varied and groundbreaking work will contribute to the flourishing of just and compassionate communities, and to a better understanding of lived religious experiences and practices, past and present.

Here are some representatives of this group of graduate students:

 

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

Nathan Walton Speaks on MLK and the Black Freedom Church

Nathan Walton MLK seminar

Nathan Walton of Abundant Life Ministries Talks with UVA Students About MLK’s Formation and Relevance

How did Martin Luther King, Jr. become Martin Luther King, Jr.? How should we understand him in terms of history and today’s conversations around social justice?

Nathan Walton, executive director of Abundant Life Ministries, explored these questions and more during a Zoom discussion, on Sept. 16, with University of Virginia students.

Video and audio of Walton’s talk, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Witness of the Black Freedom Church,” are now available on The Project on Lived Theology’s website.

During his talk, Walton placed King within the history of the black church and showed how the church shaped King’s theological outlook and social engagement. Walton then examined how King was a byproduct of the black church and other social traditions. According to Walton, “King was often asking the big-picture question, ‘What do the specific claims and events from the Bible mean for the world? And what do they mean specifically for us?’”

The talk was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which Walton and the students exchanged ideas about King, the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, ownership of narratives, the concept of American exceptionalism and the importance of self-awareness and intellectual rigor.

Walton’s discussion was part of “The Civil Rights Movement in Theological and Religious Perspective,” a UVA undergraduate seminar taught by Charles Marsh, director of The Project on Lived Theology and a professor of religious studies at UVA.

Nathan Walton has served as executive director of Abundant Life Ministries since April 2018. He holds an MDiv from Duke Divinity School, and both a BA and a PhD in religious studies from UVA. His interests include community development, theology and parish ministry. In addition to his role with Abundant Life, Nathan serves as Community Life Pastor at Charlottesville Vineyard Church.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these and other news updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

CANCELLED: Faith and Doubt in the Modern World

Due to the emergence of COVID-19, based on the guidance and recommendation from UVA Health, the Virginia Department of Health, the CDC and other partners, we have decided to cancel our event with David Bentley Hart. Our top priority is the safety of the members of the University community, and we are taking all necessary precautions to mitigate the risk of infection.

Our mission at the Project on Lived Theology will continue during this time of uncertainty. We will continue to post resources and move forward to support our community in new and creative ways.

For more event details and up-to-date event listings please click here to visit the PLT Events page. We also post updates online using #PLTevents. To get these updates, please like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @LivedTheology.

On the Lived Theology Reading List: Mississippi Praying

Mississippi Praying: Southern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975, by Carolyn Renée DupontSouthern White Evangelicals and the Civil Rights Movement, 1945-1975

In Mississippi Praying, historian Carolyn Renee Dupont challenges the prevalent notion that southern white evangelicals simply failed to support civil rights because they were carried along by the influence of the wider culture. Instead, she documents a link between their theological views and their hostility towards desegregation. These evangelicals rejected a notion of a corporate responsibility for dealing with racism, seeing such social causes as a distraction from pursuing individual salvation. Dupont’s work shows how such a religious worldview could easily end up sanctioning white supremacy.

For more information on the publication, click here.

Reviews and endorsements of the publication include:

“This is an inspired and sparkling religious history of the three major white denominations—South Baptists, Presbyterians, and Methodists—in the state of Mississippi for the three decades of the Civil Rights movement…This is not simply a tale about what happened in the struggle for black equality in Mississippi from 1945 to 1975.  It is a mirror, reflecting what is still happening in segregated churches all over America, not just in Mississippi, not just in the South, but all over this great republic.”-Baptist History & Heritage

“Dupont’s book is an essential companion to any study of the civil rights movement, not only for its treatment of how religion impacted the movement’s history but also for the way it exposes how easily oppression can be wrapped in a cloak of religiosity that blinds its adherents to injustice occurring all around them.” –The Historian

“Carolyn Renee Dupont’s examination of Mississippi white evangelicals’ fervent support of segregation during the 1950s and 1960s offers historians a fresh interpretation of the confounding paradox of God-fearing whites condoning and even participating in massive resistance. […] This book successfully challenges the reader to think beyond a variety of biases inherent in discussion of literature’s relationship with ethnic, regional, and national identities.”-The Journal of Southern History

Fellow travelers are scholars, activists, and practitioners that embody the ideals and commitments of the Project on Lived Theology. We admire their work and are grateful to be walking alongside them in the development and dissemination of Lived Theology.

For more of “On the Lived Theology Reading List,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. For more recommended resources from our fellow travelers, click here, #PLTfellowtravelers. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.

Book Award: Can I Get a Witness?

Can I Get a Witness? Thirteen Peacemakers, Community Builders, and Agitators for Faith & Justice has been selected for the 2019 Spirituality & Practice website’s 50 “Best Spiritual Books”. Discover the compelling stories of thirteen pioneers for social justice who engaged in peaceful protest and gave voice to the marginalized, working courageously out of their religious convictions to transform American culture.

These books are titles that have most impressed and inspired Spirituality & Practice during the year. Since they only review books that they want to recommend to their visitors for their spiritual journeys, this selection actually represents the best of the best. Through diverse approaches, drawing upon the wisdom and practices of the world’s religions, these titles explore the quest for meaning and purpose, wholeness and healing, commitment and community, contemplation and social activism.

Podcast

Can I Get a Witness? The Podcast is an audio companion to the book. In each episode of this podcast, we talk with one of our authors about the person they profiled for the book and about their writing process. The podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts!

For more on Can I Get a Witness?,” click here. To engage in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter, @LivedTheology, please use #LivedTheologyReads. To sign up for the Lived Theology monthly newsletter, click here.