One of the things I love most about being an educator is introducing my students to the thinkers who have inspired me. I am especially delighted when I can share things I’ve learned from meeting and hearing these scholars speak. One of the joys of “coming of age” as a religious scholar in the early 21st century is that I have been able to meet some of my heroes. I’ve conversed with scholars whose writings about justice, liberation, hope, love, and religion’s potential to be a moral force in a hurting world inspire me. I’ve been able to hear them speak at conferences and workshops where I’ve felt the truth and power of their words in my body. One of the most inspiring women I’ve met in my academic journey was Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon. She passed away on August 8, and although I was not one of her students, I grieve and mourn this recent loss. I remember her and honor her for her spirit, her scholarship, and her soul’s work.
Katie Cannon was a pioneer. Her scholarly work was integral for defining the womanism in religion and theology. She took black women’s lives, their writings, and their struggles seriously. She challenged the presumed universality of the dominant ethical systems to identify moral resources and Christian teachings that could address the challenges of people oppressed by their race, sex, and class. Dr. Cannon’s vocational journey demonstrated her willingness to transgress racial, gender, and class boundaries. She was the first African-American woman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). She grew up in a North Carolina town she described as “a modern-day plantation,” but excelled in elite academic spaces, earning her Ph.D. and then leading many others in their academic pursuits. Continue reading ““Do the Work Your Soul Must Have”: In Remembrance of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon by Elise M. Edwards”