New York, NY (December 4, 2016) Union Theological Seminary is proud to announce that Gary Dorrien was named the recipient of the 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel. Dr. Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union and a Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest and lifelong athlete, he is a recent past president of the American Theological Society and the author of seventeen books.
The Grawemeyer Award, spearheaded by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville, pays tribute to the power of creative ideas, emphasizing the impact that a single idea, as opposed to a life-long career, can have on the world. The prize was founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer and is awarded each year in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion. Previous Union Theological Seminary alumni and faculty to receive the award include ethicist Donald Shriver Jr. (2009), who served as the President of Union from 1975 to 1991, sociologist Mark Juergensmeyer (2003), and Larry L. Rasmussen (1997), who also served as the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union.
“We’re thrilled that Gary Dorrien has received the 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Religion,” said Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President of Union Theological Seminary. “As a leading public intellectual and prolific, highly respected writer, Gary embodies the rigor of the scholarship and teaching at Union. His work and teaching exemplifies Union’s longstanding commitment to social justice, and racial and religious equality and tolerance.”
In The New Abolition, Dr. Dorrien describes the early history of the Black Social Gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the 20th century with W.E.B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era by delineating the tradition of social justice theology and activism that led to Martin Luther King, Jr.
“We urgently need this historical and theological account in our religious communities and public discourse,” said Tyler Mayfield, Faculty Director of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion and the A.B. Rhodes Associate Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary. “Dorrien’s book highlights a disremembered part of American religious history, one that holds relevance for contemporary discussions about race and U.S. religion. His compelling narration of the Black Social Gospel as a profoundly religious tradition of thought and activism underscores the crucial connections among the Black Church, social Christianity, the creation of black institutions, and the struggle for freedom.”
Dr. Dorrien will receive the $100,000 award at the Grawemeyer Award Ceremony at the start of next year. We offer him our sincere congratulations on receiving this esteemed prize.