Valerie Cooper

Associate Professor of Religion and Society and Black Church Studies


0046 Langford

Duke Divinity School
Duke University
407 Chapel Drive
Duke Box #90968
Durham, NC 27708-0968


  • B.S. (Howard University)
  • M.Div. (Howard University)
  • Th.D. (Harvard University)

Professor Cooper, the first African American woman to earn tenure at Duke Divinity School, joined the faculty in 2014. Using historical and theological methodologies, her wide-ranging scholarship examines issues of religion, race, politics, and popular culture. She has published essays on African American evangelicals (particularly in Pentecostalism and the Holiness Movement), on African Americans’ use of the Bible, and with political scientist Corwin Smidt, co-authored an essay on the roles of religion and race in the 2008 election of President Barack Obama. Her article on “Black Theology” is forthcoming in the Oxford Handbook of Political Theology.

Her book, Word, Like Fire: Maria Stewart, the Bible, and the Rights of African Americans, (The University of Virginia Press, 2012), analyzes the role of biblical hermeneutics in the thought of Maria Stewart, a pioneering 19th-century African American woman theologian and political speaker.

Cooper is working on Segregated Sundays, a book evaluating the successes and failures of the racial reconciliation efforts of Christian congregations and ministries from the 1990s to the present. In addition to examining why such efforts frequently fall short of their stated goals, she also hopes to propose methods for achieving meaningful cross-racial relationships in America’s still very segregated churches and religious organizations. In this research, she is particularly interested in recovering and recording the stories of ordinary men and women of faith.

News and Stories

The 50th Anniversary of the Duke Divinity School Women's Center

The Women's Center, established 50 years ago at Duke Divinity School, serves as both a healing place for women-identifying people and as an educational space for everyone in the Divinity School community.

Being a Resurrection People in a Time of Death

Professor Valerie Cooper on how the black community in the United States has grown expert at enduring the unendurable.

Cooper Appointed to Faculty

The Divinity School names Valerie C. Cooper as the new associate professor of black church studies.