Vaughn A. Booker

|Associate Professor
Academic Appointments

Associate Professor of African and African American Studies and Religion

Vaughn is a historian of religion whose scholarship focuses on twentieth-century African American religions. In American religious history and African American studies, his teaching and research include studies of religion and gender, leadership, conversion, popular music, humor, "race histories," memoir, visual/material culture, metaphysics/spirituality, memorialization/mourning, activism, and internationalism. His first book project, Lift Every Voice and Swing (NYU Press, 2020), explores the role of jazz celebrities like Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, and Mary Lou Williams as representatives of African American religion in the twentieth century. This book won the 2022 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities from the Council of Graduate Schools. His second book project is a history of irreverent religion in African American life. To support this research, in 2022, he was awarded a Distinguished Junior External Faculty Fellowship with the Stanford University Humanities Center for the 2022-2023 academic year. In 2021, he was also awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship.

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Choate House, Room 210
HB 6134


  • Ph. D. Princeton University
  • M. A. Princeton University
  • M. Div. Harvard University
  • A. B. Dartmouth College

Selected Publications

  • Books

    Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century (New York: New York University Press, July 2020) (also on Amazon)

         --WINNER, 2022 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities, Council of Graduate Schools

         --FINALIST, 2021 Religion and the Arts Book Award, American Academy of Religion

         --Reviewed in Reading Religion:

         --Reviewed in Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone:

         --Reviewed in American Catholic Studies:

         --Reviewed in American Religion:

         --Reviewed in Journal of African American History:

  • Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

    "Mothers of the Movement: Evangelicalism and Religious Experience in Black Women's Activism," in 'Evangelicalism: New Directions in Scholarship,' ed. Randall Balmer and Edward J. Blum, Special issue of Religions 12 (2), 141 (2021): available

    "'Deplorable Exegesis': Dick Gregory's Irreverent Scriptural Authority in the 1960s and 1970s," Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 30.2 (2020): 1-50, available

    "'Pulpit and Pew': African American Humor on Irreverent Religious Participation in Negro Digest, 1943-1950," Journal of Africana Religions 8.1 (2020): 1-36, available (PDF available here)

    "'God's Spirit Lives in Me': Metaphysical Theology in Charleszetta 'Mother' Waddles' Urban Mission to the Poor," Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 22.1 (August 2018): 5-33, available (PDF available here)

    "Performing, Representing, and Archiving Belief: Religious Expressions among Jazz Musicians," Religions 7 (8), 108 (2016): available

    "'An Authentic Record of My Race': Exploring the Popular Narratives of African American Religion in the Music of Duke Ellington," Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation 25.1 (2015): 1-36, available

    "Civil Rights Religion? Rethinking 1950s and 1960s Political Activism for African American Religious History," Journal of Africana Religions 2.2 (2014): 211-243, available (PDF available here)

  • Book Chapters

    "'Pray for good sounds': Black Catholic Practice, Friendship, and Irreverence in the Intimate Correspondences of Mary Lou Williams," forthcoming for the "American Catholic Laywomen in the Twentieth Century" book project, ed. Nicholas Rademacher and Sandra Yocum.

    "The Hate That Hate Produced: Representing Black Religion in the Twentieth Century," in A Companion to American Religious History, ed. Benjamin E. Park (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2021), 301-316. (contact for info)

  • Book Reviews

    Review of Alisha Lola Jones, Flaming? The Peculiar Theopolitics of Fire and Desire in Black Male Gospel Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2020), for American Religion 2.2 (Spring 2021): 145-147. (PDF available here)

    Review of Emily Suzanne Clark and Brad Stoddard, Race and New Religious Movements in the USA: A Documentary Reader (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), for Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 24.3 (Feb 2021): 121-122. (PDF available here)

    Review of documentary film, Father's Kingdom (2017), for Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions 23.3 (Feb 2020): 114-116. (PDF available here)

    Review of Tracy Fessenden, Religion Around Billie Holiday (Penn State University Press, 2018), for Material Religion: The Journal of Objects, Art and Belief (18 July 2019), available (PDF available here).

    Review of Ula Yvette Taylor, The Promise of Patriarchy: Women and the Nation of Islam (UNC, 2017), for Reading Religion: A Publication of the American Academy of Religion (2018), available

    Review of Lerone A. Martin, Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion (NYU, 2014) for Journal of Religion and Culture 25 (2015): 111-115, available

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Speaking Engagements

Featured Discussant, The Black Church: This Is Our Story, This Is Our Song documentary, NH PBS and NH Humanities, via Zoom, February 8, 2021 (YouTube video).

"The Dignity of Labor," Address at the Annual MLK Employee Breakfast Celebration, Dartmouth College, January 21, 2019 (YouTube video)

"The Dignity of Work Is the Theme of MLK Breakfast Address," Dartmouth News, January 22, 2019 (address write-up by Bill Platt)

Interview with Randall Balmer on Aretha Franklin's life and legacy, The Briefing, SiriusXM, recorded 19 September 2018, broadcast 22 September 2018

"Mary Lou Williams and a Calling to Care," Dartmouth Health Care Foundations, The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice, Hanover, NH, July 10, 2018 (event recap)

"'Pulpit and Pew': African American Humor on Irreverent Religious Participation in the Negro Digest," American Academy of Religion, Boston, MA, November 19, 2017

Selected Works & Activities

The Immanent Frame - The Corporate Form

Student Reviews of Course Offerings

Talking to the Dead

"I was very skeptical at first, but I found this course and the readings changed the way I thought more than any course I have taken. The readings were interesting and the professor asked great questions to guide discussion in class, allowing for a lot of exchanges between students."

"I wish I had taken more religion classes here at Dartmouth; this class was certainly one of my most rewarding experiences."

"The professor was the first professor I've ever had who did a pre-course survey asking how he could make this course better for us and how he could connect with us as a professor. For that, I am extremely grateful."

African American Religion and Culture in Jim Crow America

"The topic of religion can be one that is tough to teach in an academic setting, but Prof. Booker was incredible at facilitating conversations and assessing different aspects of religion from a variety of social, cultural, and historical viewpoints. The visual and audio references he mentioned were instrumental in helping me comprehend some aspects of the course."

"I am very glad that I was able to find a small, intimate discussion-based course in my first term; as a result of having taken this course, I am now much more confident in my ability to be successful as a Dartmouth student, and have a better understanding of the expectations for Dartmouth students."

"It made me more confident in writing papers and I no longer will avoid classes that require papers in the term."

"I very, very much appreciated the fact that the class was mostly discussion-based; the discussion format (in conjunction with reading assignments) allowed me to be fully, consistently engaged in class, to better understand the reading material, and to generally enjoy the class."

Transformative Spiritual Journeys

"This is one of the best classes I have taken at Dartmouth. I usually get a little burnt out at the end of the quarter but Prof. Booker was able to provide enough engaging material and foster such nuanced conversations that I wanted to stay engaged until the end. I feel that I truly learned a lot from this class and am walking away with a much deeper understanding of both African American religious experiences but also religious experiences in general."

"The professor synthesized students' thoughts very well in discussions. The professor provided excellent contexts and themes for the discussion of the readings."

"I enjoyed that this course was discussion based. Being able to hear the ideas of my professor/classmates helped me understand and evaluate our assigned readings beyond what I could do on my own. Our discussions also kept me engaged throughout the entire period."

"I've never taken a class in the AAAS department before and I found the experience extremely beneficial. It put me out of my comfort zone in both the classroom style and in the topics we covered, which really helped me develop discussion and reflection skills that I haven't experienced in many of my other classes. I often found myself talking about our class discussions and sharing various things we read for class with my other peers, which I consider a positive reflection on how the class impacted me."