Course Descriptions

Vexations: Religion and Politics in the Black Community | Emilie M. Townes

This course explores the theo-ethical perspectives of the intersection between religion and politics in Black communities in the United States that forms the matrix of vexation –the complex encounter with social problems on a multi-dimensional basis. The challenge is to relate the essentials of Christian ethics to contemporary social issues, identify basic elements of Christian ethical reflection in political discourse, consider a variety of ethical perspectives for decision-making, and evaluate Black ethical thinkers as they respond to concrete political and social issues. Our conversations will be informed by focusing upon such social issues as mass incarceration, gang violence, health care poverty, drugs, voting rights, education, unemployment, and police brutality as entry points to the matrix, the impact of these social issues on Black communities in the U.S., and their implications for prophetic witness in the academy, community, church, and society.

Labor: Occupational Activism | Daniel Cornfield

This course will introduce participants to the concept of occupational activism and explore the typologies drawn from veterans of the nonviolent Nashville civil rights movement of the early 1960s. By exploring the fourfold typology of occupational activism, which emphasizes the role of worker agency and activism in determining worker life chances, and the varieties of activism perspective, which treats the typology as a coherent regime of activist roles in the dialogical diffusion of civil rights movement values into, within, and out of workplaces, participants will gain knowledge of the ‘new’ sociology of work that emphasizes closing the gaps created by racialized workplaces and labor markets. This course will illumine the role of worker agency in desegregating workplaces and offer integrative strategies for mobilizing and addressing mounting racial economic inequality.

Immigration: Sustaining Tiered Personhood: Jim Crow and Anti-Immigration Laws | Karla McKanders

This course will examine the anti-immigration trends in American legal systems designed to enable discrimination. Outlining the various state and local anti-immigration laws that lead to segregation, exclusion, and degradation of Latinos from American society, parallels will be drawn to the manner in which Jim Crow laws excluded African Americans from membership in social, political and economic institutions within the United States and relegated them to second class citizenship status. The course will contrast and compare legislative motives behind both Jim Crow and state and local anti-immigration laws, noting in both instances that states and localities utilize their constitutional authority to regulate matters of state concern to mask discriminatory motives thereby exposing a normative theme that law reifies race by legislating cultural norms that reinforce racial divisions and hierarchy in our country.

Housing and Urban Development: The Role of Racist Governance | Herbert Marbury and Teresa Smallwood

In the South, the Bible is a part of the lingua franca.  From sermons to political addresses to everyday speech, its familiar passages form a southern cultural vernacular. The three discussions in this track will take up the Bible to attempt ways of speaking “to and with” communities that hold the Bible as Scripture.  The first will address the politics of “othering.” The second turns to policy and the production of evil. The third takes up privilege and its insidious power to halt meaningful progression in movements.

Public Policy: Racial Justice and The Wealth Gap | Shameka Nicole Cathey

 This course will build upon rationalities in this track that establish how public policy around housing, education, and labor markets drives the wealth gap and definitively show how public policy could reverse the trends set by racist governance by eliminating disparities in homeownership, college graduation, and income. Through a statistical analysis, participants will discern the methodologies needed to close the wealth gap as a prophetic response to racist governance with the aid of the Racial Wealth Audit developed by the Institute on Assets and Social Policy (IASP) to assess the impact of public policy on the wealth gap between white and Black and Latino households with the aim of guiding policy development.

Law: The Politics of Division | Daniel Sharfstein

Based upon his book Thunder in the Mountains: Chief Joseph, Oliver Otis Howard, and the Nez Perce War, Vanderbilt Law Professor, Daniel Sharfstein will demonstrate the deep veins of political division that instantiate racial inequality in America. Building from the Freedman’s Bureau after the Civil War to the dedication of Howard University to the failed Reconstruction, participants will dissect the conflict which becomes a pivotal struggle over who gets to claim the American dream: a battle of ideas about the meaning of freedom and equality, the mechanics of American power, and the limits of what the government can and should do for its people.


Andrea Flynn and Dorian T. Warren, The Hidden Rules of Race: Barriers to an Inclusive Economy

Emilie M. Townes, Breaking the Fine Rain of Death: African American Health Issues and a Womanist Ethic of Care

Richard Rothstein, The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America

Naomi Murakawa, The First Civil Right: How Liberals Build Prison America

Walter Fluker, The Ground Has Shifted: The Future of the Black Church in Post-Racial America

Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America

Premiella Madison, Household Workers Unite

Noliwe Rooks, Cutting School: Privatization, Segregation and the End of Public Education

Dr. Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide

Walter Bruggemann, Interrupting Silence: God’s Command to Speak Out

                                Journey to the Common Good