Academics & Programs

Duke Divinity School is the first school in the nation to have a course requirement in black church studies for all of its M.Div. students. The school also offers courses open to all its master and doctoral students.

Black church studies is an intensely interdisciplinary, ecumenical and intellectually inclusive endeavor. The faculty members who teach courses in black church studies are not simply faculty of African descent but all Divinity School faculty members with interests that intersect this broad field. This includes faculty members with primary research interests in African and African-American religious history, biblical studies, theology, spirituality, congregational studies, preaching, sociology, feminist thought and theology, Hispanic studies, and post-colonial studies.

As part of Duke Divinity School’s commitment to transform ministry, we offer a broad range of courses in varying aspects of Black Church Studies.

Course Offerings

Here is just a sample of the courses offered on a rotating basis by the Divinity School related to the Black Church:

  1. Introduction to Black Theology

    This course is an introduction to black theology from its inception to the salient features of its most recent configurations by second and third generation exponents. The course considers “classical” expressions of black theology as well as certain innovations in black theology like womanism and African-American pragmatic theology.

  2. The Black Church in America

    This course considers the historical and theological development of the separate black Christian denominations in America with attention to some of the major leaders, black worship and black preaching.

  3. Black Religion and Social Conflicts in America

    This course examines some of the reactions of black religious groups to the limits placed upon black people in American life, efforts made to break down racial barriers in society and attempts to institutionalize black responses to such barriers.

  4. The Life and Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr.

    This course examines the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., his theology and his continuing influence on the church’s ministry.

  5. Contemporary Black Culture and Consciousness

    The course provides a theological investigation of prevailing culture, political, social, and economic motifs in black cultural life and their relation to theology and the life of the church.

  6. Selected Topics in Black Church History

    These seminars provide an exploration of pivotal events, key issues and persons in the development of the Black Church in America.

  7. African-American Christian Spirituality

    The course exposes students to African Christian spirituality. Such spirituality will be derived from how African spiritual writers view God, human beings and the created universe. Students study African Christian spirituality from North America, Belize, Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, Northern Africa, and Southern Africa.

  8. Theology and the Black Activist Tradition

    Is there compatibility between classical Christ theology and the aims and ambitions of the black activist tradition? This course pursues an answer to this question by juxtaposing Christological ideas and the black activist tradition.

  9. God and Caesar: Learning From the Church's Struggle Against Apartheid

    This course equips students for the church’s prophetic role in society by learning from the strengths and weaknesses of the church struggle in South Africa.

  10. The Faces of Jesus in Africa

    This course will seek to explore and highlight the assumptions underlying various constructions of “the faces of Jesus” within African theology. Particular focus will be the social and historical theological factors surrounding African enculturation, liberation and feminist Christologies. The goal of the course is to lead students to a better appreciation of the complexity of African culture and the challenges that face African Christians.

  11. The Nation State and Theology in Africa

    This course will focus on the problematic status of the nation state in Africa in relation to church, economic development and violence.

  12. Postcolonial Identities and Theologies in Africa

    This course will provide an overview of the current trends in African theological and philosophical thought, especially those relating to or built around the notion of postcolonial identity.

  13. The Rwanda Genocide and the Challenge for the Church

    This course explores the events and “reasons” that surround the 1994 genocide in Rwanda from both a historical and theological perspective. The current “explanations” for the genocide are critically analyzed and discussed with a view of raising wider issues relating to African history, memory, violence, and the church’s social role in Africa

  14. Christian Identity and the Formation of the Racial World

    This course seeks to establish a theological paradigm that addresses issues of racial identity and racism. This will be done centrally by examining the formation and growth of the modern racial world. Central to this examination will be the formation of black Christian existence inside the rise of modern white Christianity. Within the context of this narration we will engage in three related tasks: 1) We will examine the development and deployment of racial anthropology in the modern Christian social imagination; 2) We will examine the black Diaspora responses to white Christianity in terms of its Christian forms of witness; 3) We will outline in a substantial way a theological vision (drawn in part from the black disaporic response and in part from a recalibration of the original biblical trajectories of Christian identity) that questions the racial order of the world.