Through innovative scholarship, public programs, and collecting religious artifacts, the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life expands the ways religion is acknowledged and explored by our nation’s research and cultural institutions.

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Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

Exhibitions

Diverse aspects of the Black Religious experience are revealed by stories of artists bluring the boundaries between the holy and the profane, Black religious leaders bearing witness to wrongs and lighting the pathway to freedom and activists articulating the complex dimensions of the suffering and trauma of Black people in America.

Marvin Gaye standing on stage with his hands raised as if praying

Spirit in the Dark

Sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background, at times in the shadows—but always somewhere in the frame—religion is essential to the story of Black America.
Read More about Spirit in the Dark

Explore Our Public Programs

The Center organizes public events exploring religion’s place in African American history and culture and the contemporary roles and needs of faith leaders, faith-based organizations, and African American communities.

Visit the Museum's calendar of events for a list of upcoming programs, subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch past programs, and follow #BlackFaith for an ongoing conversation with a global community of faith and religious leaders, scholars, and the public.

gOD-Talk

gOD-Talk is a groundbreaking project spearheaded by the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life in association with Pew Research Center.

The project is a series of conversations aimed at uncovering how millennials interact with religion and the transformative nature of community, the internet, and space. Featuring leading millennial voices, gOD-Talk amplifies their individual and shared experiences in a curated conversation streamed live to audiences online across the United States and around the world.

Learn More

Image of GodTalk poster
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Past Programs

Photograph of a crowded church. The woman in the center of the image leans back with her left hand raised in the air.

Recovering the Bones

Recovering the Bones was a two-day academic conference hosted by the Museum. The conference explores the relationship between Black religious traditions and material objects by bringing together scholars from a variety of academic disciplines.
Learn More about Recovering the Bones
Faith in Blackness

Faith in Blackness

CSAARL teamed up with the AfroLatine Project and Afrolatin@ Forum to present the world premiere screening and panel discussion of "Faith in Blackness: An Exploration of AfroLatine Spirituality." Through this event, we aim to explore the unique aspects of AfroLatine Spirituality, center the experiences of Black Latines, and gain a deeper understanding of Latine Spirituality and Theology...
Watch Now about Faith in Blackness
God Talk 2.0

gOD-Talk 2.0 Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith

gOD-Talk 2.0: Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith is the seventh episode of the award-winning web series. In collaboration with the release of the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap, this conversation explores the relationship between hip-hop music and culture and Black expressions of faith and spirituality.
Learn More about gOD-Talk 2.0 Hip-Hop & #BlackFaith
Flaming

“Fire and Desire”

Organized around Dr. Alisha Lola Jones’ Flaming?: The Peculiar Theo-Politics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance, this conversation explored the various ways male gospel music performers negotiate identity, both within and beyond Black religious spaces.
Watch Now about “Fire and Desire”

Afterlives of Slavery Conference: The Troubles I’ve Seen: Religious Dimensions of Slavery & Its Afterlives

October 19 – 21, 2023

Presented by CSAARL, Princeton Seminary, & Howard University School of Divinity.

For more information or to register to attend for free visit:  https://afterlivesconference.ptsem.edu

Center Staff Photos and Bios

Erika Gault, Ph.D. – Director & Lilly Endowment Curator

Erika D. Gault, Ph.D. is the Director of Center for the Study of African American Religious Life and the Lilly Endowment Curator of African American Religious History at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. She is one of the foremost scholars of Digital Black Religion. She currently serves as the principal investigator for the Connected Faith: Digital Black Religion Survey...
Full Bio about Erika Gault, Ph.D. – Director & Lilly Endowment Curator

Teddy Reeves, Ph.D. – Curator of Religion

Teddy Reeves, Ph.D. is the Curator of Religion in the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life (CSAARL) at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Dr. Reeves is a multifaceted, award-winning producer and curator that uses his many strengths to capture and curate cultural moments. He is the creator and producer of the Museum’s first web-series...
Full Bio about Teddy Reeves, Ph.D. – Curator of Religion

Kim Moir—Public Programs Producer

Kim Moir is the Public Programs Producer at the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). He is responsible for coordinating and conducting public programs and outreach activities for the museum’s Center for the Study of African American Religious Life (CSAARL)...
Full Bio about Kim Moir—Public Programs Producer

Janine Hinton—Management Support Specialist

As the most recent member to join the CSAARL team, Hinton is still establishing herself within the Center and the Smithsonian NMAAHC community. She contributes various types of support for the Center from the day-to-day tasks, such as, documenting meetings held with fellow NMAAHC staff members and outside collaborators and assisting in the transport of honorary awards...
Full Bio about Janine Hinton—Management Support Specialist

Donna Braxton – Program Analyst

Donna Braxton is the technical lead for the Center for the Study of African American Religious Life. Braxton provides technical support for national programs, public engagements, and Center operations. Braxton coordinates and implements projects involving cross functional teams, funds management, procurement, travel, and invoicing. Braxton has expertise with various financial and travel systems that are used to...
Full Bio about Donna Braxton – Program Analyst

Religious Practitioners and Scholars' Advisory Council
(CORPS)

Publications

Double Exposure
Featured Publication

Double Exposure Vol. VIII - Movements, Motions, Moments

Movements, Motions, Moments draws upon the photography collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to explore the dynamic ways African Americans engage in and practice religion and spirituality.

Details about Double Exposure Vol. VIII - Movements, Motions, Moments

Prayer rug owned by Imam W.D. Mohammed

The prayer rug is a low-pile carpet with a primarily gray-blue background with black and white design details. The design featured in the top third of the rug is the image of an architectural dome with a small floral spire at the top. Below the dome is a geometric pattern running horizontally across the rug. Below the geometric pattern in the lower two-thirds of the rug is a stylized architectural interior...
Learn More about Prayer rug owned by Imam W.D. Mohammed

Pulpit from Metropolitan AME

A pulpit from the Metropolitan AME Church, consisting of a hollow, three-sided structure composed of multiple pieces of wood that show different techniques, ages, and varnishes. The front of the pulpit features two arches separated by a piece of wood and framed by thin columns on either side...
Learn More about Pulpit from Metropolitan AME

Rabbi and Founder Wentworth Arthur Matthew with Torah...

A black-and-white photograph of Rabbi Matthew holding an open Torah scroll. The photograph is signed by the photographer in the bottom right corner.
Learn More about Rabbi and Founder Wentworth Arthur Matthew with Torah...

Search the Collection

Discover objects from the Museum's collection that help expand the ways religion is acknowledged and explored.

Lilly Foundation

The Center for the Study African American Religious Life is generously funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

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