Penn scholar to deliver Bainton lecture on African American women and Bible reading in late 19th century

Anthea Butler, associate professor of religious studies and graduate chair at the University of Pennsylvania, will deliver the 2010 Bainton Lecture at Yale Divinity School on Sept. 14 on the topic “Reformation in Black: African American Women and Bible Reading in the Late 19th Century.”

ButlerButler was the 2008-09 Colorado Scholar and visiting assistant professor in the Women’s Study in Religion Program at Harvard Divinity School. Her most recent book, Women in the Church of God in Christ, Making A Sanctified World (University of North Carolina Press) chronicles the history of African American women’s religious lives and civic engagement in the Church of God in Christ, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States.

While controversies over biblical interpretation raged during the late 19th century, Butler notes, African American Women in the southern United States engaged the biblical text to wage a battle of their own: autonomy and the right to read and interpret scripture for themselves and their children. Through the influence of American Baptist Missionary Joanna P. Moore, black women were mobilized to both learn to read and teach others through a home reading system known as “the Fireside Schools.”  Butler’s talk will engage how the Fireside Schools became a way to advance the race and provide a foundation for biblical understandings that promoted organizing within the African American religious tradition.

Butler has been featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, Speaking of Faith, Interfaith Voices, News and Notes, the Today Show and The History Channel.  Her most recent media work was with the PBS series American Experience as a consultant for a 2007 segment featuring Aimee Semple McPherson, noted Pentecostal evangelist and media personality. She is currently a consultant to the PBS series God in America, which will air in fall 2010.

The lecture, free and open to the public, will begin at 5:30 pm in Niebuhr Lecture Hall, 409 Prospect St., New Haven, followed by a reception at 6:30 pm in the Sarah Smith Gallery.