I was in seminary when I first became aware of Black History Month. It's not that I had not heard of it before, but I was, for the first time, in a setting that allowed me to come in contact with African Americans on a daily basis. In spite of growing up on Long Island, I'd had few meaningful encounters with African Americans up to that point.
While at seminary I become close friends with another divinity student who is black. He was generous and patient with me as he helped me to slowly, like an onion, begin to peel back the layers of assumptions, ignorance and prejudice, most of which I did not realize was there.
When February came around one year I asked him why there was a Black History Month? Should there not also be a White History month? His answer was twofold. First, he pointed out to me that every other month of the year is white history month. He also told me that Black History Month was not for him but for me. He was aware of his own history, but it was an opportunity for me to learn about his history in this country.
The process that began at seminary has continued. And each year another layer of assumptions, ignorance and prejudice is peeled away. I have learned and come to appreciate the distinctive experience and voice that belongs to black Americans so much so that I included a chapter on African American reposes to Paul and Slavery in my book Recent Research on Paul and Slavery.
So with this in mind I decided to offer a tribute today to African American biblical scholars. Below are two lists. The first comes from the contributors to Stony the Road We Trod. These were, in many ways, pioneers who helped to raise up the voices and scholarship of African American biblical scholars.
The Second list comes from pages 559-560 of True to Our Native Land. This is the most up-to-date list that I have. If anyone is aware of a more recent list please let me know. I have also tried to find and include links for each name. I have found many, but not all. If you have a better link or one that I don't, please let me know.
In 1990, Stony the Road We Trod was published under the editorship of Cain Hope Felder. This is a landmark work in African American scholarship that helped to set the tone for the next decade. The book, the result of a series of meetings between black biblical scholars and theologians between 1986 and 1989, marked the first time a group of African American scholars collaborated on a major contribution to biblical studies. Here are those contributors.
In 2007 African American scholars published True to our Native Land, a commentary on the New Testament from an African American point-of-view. The scholars below are contibutors and/or those listed on pages 559-560.
I am thankful for these people. In spite of the numerous challenges they have faced, they have offered a contribution to the field that deserves our attention.