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15 Feb
The Dean's Conference Room (Room 801)
Feb 15, 2018 | 12:30 PM-1:50 PM


Race, Religion, and Presidents

What Can Zilpha Elaw’s Memoirs Teach Us About Charlottesville, Trump, and American Evangelicalism?

The perplexing relationship between Trump and the religious right was never more polarizing than after the protests and murder in Virginia in August 2017. Kimberly Blockett (Associate Professor of English and Division Coordinator of Liberal Arts, Penn State Brandywine) has written on the Black woman evangelist Zilpha Elaw (c. 1793-1873) who preached extensively from Maine to Virginia. Blockett examines the trans-historical intersections of race, religion, and politics, highlighting how Christian revivalism fundamentally changed American culture. At the core of those cultural shifts, the one debate that threatened every sect and denomination was race.

Kimberly Blockett is a literary historian who specializes in 19th-century African American literature and cultural studies. She uses archival research and cultural geography to examine how travel shapes and informs the work of black women writers. Blockett is the 2017-18 recipient of a NEH fellowship from the Massachusetts Historical Society and a fellowship from the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at the Harvard Divinity School where she is completing her monograph and an annotated edition on Zilpha Elaw, a black female evangelist, and Methodist itinerant culture. Her most recent publications appear in the Cambridge History of African American Literature and MELUS Journal. Blockett earned her PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Presented as a part of Gallatin’s Black History Month programming.