Terrence Johnson Joins Harvard Divinity School as Professor of African American Religious Studies

August 2, 2022
Terrence Johnson
Dr. Terrence Johnson has been appointed Professor of African American Religious Studies at HDS. / Courtesy photo

Dr. Terrence L. Johnson has been named Professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School (HDS), effective July 25, 2022.

Johnson is joining HDS from the Department of Government at Georgetown University, where he was Associate Professor of Religion and Politics, a Senior Research Fellow at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs, and an affiliate member of the Department of African American Studies. Johnson also served on the executive committee of the Center for Jewish Civilization at Georgetown.

“I am delighted to welcome Terrence Johnson as our new faculty member for the 2022-23 academic year,” said Dean David N. Hempton in announcing Johnson’s appointment. “His passion for teaching, mentoring, and advising, as well as scholarly research, will greatly enhance the faculty, including our curricular offerings, scholarship, and support of students in African American Religious Studies.

“We are delighted that together with our recent appointments of Dr. Tracey Hucks, Dr. Ahmad Greene-Hayes, and now Dr. Johnson, Harvard Divinity School will continue to build on its existing strengths to become an important center for Africana Diasporic and African American Religious Studies in the country.”

Prior to his appointment at Georgetown, Johnson was Assistant and Associate Professor in the Department of Religion at Haverford College (2007-14). Johnson earned his BA from Morehouse College in 1993, a master of divinity degree from Harvard Divinity School in 2000, and a PhD in Religion from Brown University in 2008.

“I am very excited to join a new and existing cohort of dynamic faculty within African and African Religious Studies at HDS,” Johnson said. “The Divinity School's commitment to building a strong interdisciplinary AARS program will enrich the School's curriculum and play an important role in how it shapes religious and theological education for the next generation of global leaders, academics, and clergy. HDS is an incredibly unique graduate school setting and I look forward to working alongside an esteemed group of faculty, students, and staff.”

Johnson is an ordained Itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. His research interests include African American political thought, ethics, American religions, and the role of religion in public life. He is the author of Blacks and Jews in America: An Invitation to Dialogue (2022, with Jacques Berlinerblau); We Testify with Our Lives: How Religion Transformed Radical Thought from Black Power to Black Lives Matter (2021); and Tragic Soul-Life: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Moral Crisis Facing American Democracy (2012). He also serves as co-editor of the Duke University Press Series Religious Cultures of African and African Diaspora People. He is currently completing a manuscript entitled “The Law of Race and Public Religions: Talking Book Traditions and the Limits of Originalism,” which is under contract with Columbia University Press.

“A deeply thoughtful, constructive and masterful scholar, Terrence Johnson will greatly deepen our curricular offerings and faculty breadth in African American Religious Studies and Religious, Ethics, and Politics, two areas where our students have strong interests,” says David Lamberth, Professor of Philosophy and Theology and search committee chair for the African American Religious professorship. “Terrence’s work is dynamic and broad, attending to what he calls ‘soul life’ from Du Bois to the Black Radical and Womanist traditions to the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as, most recently, offering a thoughtful reading and dialogue about the relations of Blacks and Jews in contemporary America. He levels a thorough-going and honest critique of the failures of liberalism, particularly in light of anti-Blackness in American politics and culture, reading these limitations not only theoretically but in a historically-informed manner.

“What is particularly exciting about Terrence’s work is his constructive and creative approach, always looking for and advocating new possibilities drawn from ways of being disclosed within Black life. Terrence seeks thus to animate the ethical turn in Black thought and draws deeply from the resources of Black interiority. A consummate scholar and teacher, Terrence Johnson and will be a terrific voice and leader in our community and on the faculty. We are so fortunate to have him join us!”

—by Jonathan Beasley