Divinity School and Marty Center Celebrate Black History Month

By Lauren Pond | February 9, 2024
multicolored geometric pattern

The University of Chicago Divinity School and Martin Marty Center will celebrate Black History Month this February with a suite of interdisciplinary and collaborative events focused on Black religious life in the United States. Programming will take place both on and off campus and feature lunch discussions, an art exhibit tour, and a hands-on workshop. All events are free and most are open to the public.

This year’s programs build on the success of the Divinity School’s 2023 Black History Month events, and were likewise organized by Theology PhD students and Benjamin Mays Fellows Matt Vega and Iris Reddick Manburg, with support from the Marty Center.

"The Divinity School is proud to honor and celebrate the long history of scholarship by and about African Americans, and to continue the wonderful tradition of programming begun last year by Iris and Matt," Dean James T. Robinson said.

Similar to last year’s programming, the 2024 Black History Month events include public luncheons with notable Chicago religious and social justice leaders. On Friday, February 9, 2024 at 12:00 pmDr. Brad R. Braxton will lead a lunchtime discussion in the Swift Hall Common Room. Braxton is an author, scholar, and President and Professor of Public Theology at Chicago Theological Seminary, a progressive graduate school of theology known for its leadership in social justice and interfaith engagement. His leadership has extended beyond the academy to cultural, philanthropic, and religious organizations, and he continues to be a highly sought-after lecturer and preacher. On Wednesday, February 28, 2024 at 12:00 pm, community members can also have lunch with Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III, Senior Pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church since 2008. A third-generation civil and human rights activist, Moss has built his ministry on community advancement and racial and social justice activism. He routinely preaches and practices a Black theology that unapologetically calls attention to the problems of mass incarceration, environmental justice, and economic inequality.

“As practitioners and theoreticians in the Black religious tradition, Reverend Dr. Otis Moss and President Braxton weave together social, theological, and moral wisdom as leaders in the city of Chicago,” Vega said. “Black History Month programming is important as it celebrates the incommensurate contributions of Black religious leaders to both public and religious life. The rich intellectual tradition of the Divinity School and the cultural significance of Chicago makes Swift Hall the perfect place to glean from both scholars and practitioners of religion during this important month.”

This year’s Black History Month programming will also expand beyond Hyde Park, taking participants to the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. During a guided private tour of the Faith Ringgold: American People exhibit on Tuesday, February 13, 2024 at 6:30 pm, members of the Divinity School community will view and learn about the work of Ringgold, an artist, author, educator, and organizer whose diverse works link “the multidisciplinary practices of the Harlem Renaissance to the political art of young Black artists working today,” according to the museum. The exhibition emphasizes Ringgold’s “radical explorations of gender and racial identities, which the artist incorporates into the rich textures of her paintings, soft sculptures, and story quilts.”

Building on the Faith Ringgold exhibition tour, the Marty Center will also host a public quilting workshop in partnership with the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art on Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 12 pm. Guided by Aneesah Veatch, the Smart Museum's Academic Engagement Coordinator, and Nicole Bond, the Smart Museum's Manager of Learning and Public Engagement, participants will reflect on the relevance of quilting and creative arts to African American spiritual life and have the opportunity to create a collaborative collage "quilt,” for display. No prior knowledge or skill are necessary to participate in the workshop, and all materials will be provided. There will also be lunch provided for the first 30 participants. 

In addition to honoring Black History Month, this diverse array of programs focused on Black religious life dovetails with one of the Marty Center’s key areas of focus: Black religious life. This topic is central to the research of a growing number of Divinity School students and faculty, Marty Center Executive Director Emily D. Crews explained, including center Faculty Co-Director Curtis J. Evans, an Associate Professor of American Religions and the History of Christianity.

“Black history highlights the most significant debates in American history: if all are entitled to equal treatment and citizenship rights,” Evans said. “Black religious traditions have repeatedly wrestled with individual and collective flourishing for their members and the nation.”

Equally important, the events provide a valuable opportunity to reflect on the prominent role of Black culture and experience in the city the university calls home.

“The history of Chicago is inseparable from the history of Black religious life,” Crews said.

Rachel Berkebile contributed reporting

Learn more here about the Black History Month events described above. For additional information or to request accommodation, please contact Marty Center Program Manager Tiffany Annett at