Wallace Best

Professor
Department of Religion & Department of African American Studies
PhD, Religion
Northwestern University
office:
131 1879 Hall
office phone:
(609) 258-6940
email:
wbest@princeton.edu
Wallace Best

Background

Wallace Best specializes in 19th and 20th century African American religious history. His research and teaching focus on the areas of African American religion, religion and literature, Pentecostalism, and Womanist theology. He has held fellowships at Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion and the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University.

Courses

AAS 256 / REL 256 (HA)

African American Religious History

This course will trace the origins and development of African American religion in the United States. It will begin with the important debate about “Africanisms” and an examination of “slave religion” in its various forms. We will also discuss urban religion and the rise of “The Black Gods of the Metropolis”. In addition to Christian and quasi-Christian groups, we will also explore the rise of non-Christian groups such as Black Hebrews and the Nation of Islam. The course concludes with an examination of the contested role of black churches during the Civil Rights Movement.

AAS 318 / REL 318

Black Women and Spiritual Narrative

This course will analyze the narrative accounts of African American women since the nineteenth century.   Working from the hypothesis that religious metaphor and symbolism have figured prominently in black women’s writing (and writing about black women) across literary genres, we will explore the various ways black women have used their narratives not only to disclose the intimacies of their religious faith, but also to understand and to critique their social context. We will discuss the themes, institutions, and structures that have traditionally shaped black women’s experiences, as well as the theologies black women have developed in response.

AAS 506 / REL 514 / GSS 506

Sexuality and Religion in America

Sexuality has long been a contested and contentious issue within American religions, yet only recently have scholars and practitioners begun to forthrightly address it. This course will explore the emerging literature on sexuality and religion as a way to understand how approaches to sex and sexuality within “sacred spaces” have shaped private behavior and public opinion. We will give particular attention to American Evangelical and Catholic religious expressions for the way they have been especially influential in framing (and inhibiting) sexual discourse and practices in the US and throughout the world.