Kelly Brown Douglas wins 2023 Grawemeyer Award in Religion

Categories: EDS at Union

We are thrilled to announce that the Very Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas ’82, ’88, Dean of Episcopal Divinity School at Union and Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology at Union, has been named the 2023 winner of the prestigious Grawemeyer Award in Religion for her book Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter. In her book Resurrection Hope, Dean Douglas offers a powerful vision of hope and resilience for a world struggling with the ongoing challenges of racial equality and social justice.

Dean Kelly Brown Douglas shared:

I never believed that I would be the recipient of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion. I am overwhelmed and humbled by this incredible honor. I am so grateful to Louisville Seminary and everyone who read my book as part of this process. I am especially moved by the fact that I am being recognized for Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter, a book that my son, Desmond, played such a pivotal role in. Desmond challenges my faith and my thinking. He makes me better in every way, and this award is a testament to that.

I also want to thank Orbis Books and Robert Ellsberg who have been instrumental in each and every one of my books. When I had just finished my PhD, they gave me a chance and opened the door for me, a Black woman, to publish The Black Christ. They believed in me from the start when so many others did not.

And finally, there is a deep and almost inexpressible feeling of pride because I am sharing this award with my friend and mentor, James Cone. Truly I would not be doing this work without him. James Cone opened up this field of theology for me. I am grateful that I can honor his legacy through my work.

The Grawemeyer Award in Religion is one of the most prestigious awards in the field of theology and religious studies. This award is a testament to Dean Douglas’ outstanding contributions to the fields of theology and social justice, and we are incredibly proud of her for this well-deserved recognition. We congratulate her on this incredible achievement. Read the full press release from Louisville Seminary below and here

Renewal of faith will give meaning to Black Lives Matter, says religion award winner

How do we really know God cares when Black people are still getting killed? How long do we have to wait for God’s justice?

Hearing her young-adult son ask those challenging questions and witnessing Black Lives Matter protests erupt nationwide after George Floyd’s death led theologian Kelly Brown Douglas to write “Resurrection Hope: A Future Where Black Lives Matter.”

Today, Dr. Douglas was named winner of the 2023 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for “Resurrection Hope.”

Dr. Douglas is Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the Bill and Judith Moyers Chair in Theology. She also serves as the Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Theologian in Residence at Trinity Church Wall Street. She is one of the first Black female Episcopal priests in the United States and the first Black person to head an Episcopal Church-affiliated educational institution.

In “Resurrection Hope,” Douglas shows how a “white way of knowing” came to dominate America through an anti-Black narrative tracing back to the Greek philosopher Aristotle. She also cites examples of how this bias persists today, from the refusal to dismantle Confederate monuments to attempts to discredit The 1619 Project, an effort to reframe U.S. history starting from the year the first enslaved Africans arrived in Virginia.

While recognizing the prolonged suffering of Black people raises deep questions about the credibility of Christianity, Douglas argues that faith, not despair, is the best hope for assuring Black lives are valued.

“Dean Douglas takes us on a captivating, painful journey with personal and erudite reflections on America’s corrupted soul,” said Tyler Mayfield, religion award director. “Her insights are lucid and disturbing. Her remedies are bold and constructive. May we find the courage to walk into the future she envisions for us all.”

Douglas, who holds doctor of philosophy and master of divinity degrees, previously has been a faculty member at Goucher College, Howard University, and Edward Waters College. She has written five widely taught books, including “Sexuality and the Black Church,” which first addressed homophobia within the Black church community from a womanist perspective, and “Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God,” which examines the challenges of a “Stand Your Ground” judicial-political culture for the Black church.

Orbis Books published her Grawemeyer Award-winning book in 2021.

The University of Louisville and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give the religion prize. Recipients of next year’s Grawemeyer Awards Grawemeyer Award were named this week pending formal approval by university and seminary trustees. The $100,000 prizes also honor seminal ideas in music, world order, psychology and education. Winners will visit Louisville in the spring to accept their awards and give free talks.