“Black is a Church” Book Talk with Prof. Josef Sorett


The Burke was delighted to host our first large-scale public event in the Reading Room in several years — a reading and panel discussion on Nov. 1st with Dr. Josef Sorett, Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education at Columbia University, and Professor of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies, centered around his recent book Black is a Church: Christianity and the Contours of African American Life. The book uses methods from history, literature, religious studies, and music to explore “the vital and complex role that religion has played in shaping Black communities and movements.”


Chandeliers illuminate the events in our Reading Room, with space for over a hundred guests


Explaining the title of the book, Prof. Sorett read from p. 176, describing “a tradition that has long made a claim for the sacredness of all black lives. For blackness, the black, as sacred… And, in doing so, they continue to both bear the marks of and breathe life into something very CHURCH in the making.”


The panel was moderated by Prof. Nkosi Anderson, who teaches at Seton Hall and graduated with his PhD from Union Theological Seminary, and included Prof. Obery Hendricks, Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Religion and African American and African Diaspora Studies at Columbia University, and Prof. Andrea White, Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Union Theological Seminary. The conversation was lively and collegial, with good humor punctuating the thoughtful and critical discussion.


three men -- Nkosi Anderson a young Black man, Obery Hendricks an older Black man, and Josef Sorett an adult Black man, and Andrea White a Black woman with long grey hair, sit side by side in wooden chairs in a library room lined with books
Lively conversation about Prof. Sorett’s book “Black is a Church”


From the Burke Library’s standpoint, we were happy to co-produce this event with the Dean’s Office and Barnes & Noble, and were able to provide some refreshments for our attendees. With our brand-new audio system of amplified microphones and speakers, we look forward to hosting more book talks like this in the future. -CB



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