Black girlhood as a theological problem focus of Antoinette Brown Lecture

The Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman (submitted image)
The Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman (submitted image)

The Rev. Dr. Eboni Marshall Turman, a womanist scholar with a strong passion for helping black women rise above gender bias and racism, will deliver the 2017 Antoinette Brown Lecture at Vanderbilt Divinity School March 23.

Turman, assistant professor of theology and African American religion at Yale University Divinity School, will speak at 7 p.m. in Benton Chapel. Her talk is titled “Facing Pecola: Toward a Womanist Soteriologic of Black Girl Disrespectability.”

Pecola is the young black girl in Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye who is ridiculed and abused by almost everyone she meets.

“My lecture will begin with an examination of the textures of black girls’ social and moral crucifixion by focusing on their respective criminalization and demonization at the hands of anti-black state-sanctioned and anti-black church-sanctioned gender terror,” Turman said. “An exploration of the nature of suffering in the lives of black girls will follow. [lquote]I assert black girlhood is a theological problem to which the Black Church must be held accountable.”[/lquote]

An author, ordained minister, professor and public theologian, Turman is one of very few scholarly millennial voices offering moral perspective on issues facing the black community. She was the youngest woman to be named assistant minister of the historic Abyssinian Baptist Church in New York City, where she served for 10 years.

Turman previously was assistant research professor of theological ethics, black church studies, and African and African American studies at Duke University Divinity School. She also has served as director of Duke’s Office of Black Church Studies.

One of Ebony magazine’s “Young Faith Leaders in the Black Community,” she was included on the Network Journal’s prestigious “40 Under 40” list. In addition, she was named as one of the “Top 5 Young Preachers in America” by ROHO.

In 2014, Turman was inducted into the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collegium of Scholars. Her opinions on race, faith and gender have been published by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and Dallas Morning News, among other publications.

Building upon the literary, intellectual and activist foundations of Alice Walker, W.E.B DuBois and Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Turman published her seminal work, ­Toward a Womanist Ethic of Incarnation: Black Bodies, the Black Church and the Council of Chalcedon. In the book, she explores the sexism that pervades the black church and chips away at the moral justification for black women’s social subordination.

She is currently working on her second book, tentatively titled Black Women’s Burden: Sexism, Sacred Witness, and Transforming the Moral Life of the Black Church.

Turman received her bachelor of arts in philosophy from Fordham University. She then earned a master of divinity, master of philosophy and doctor of philosophy in social ethics from Union Theological Seminary.

The Antoinette Brown Lecture is made possible by a gift from Sylvia Sanders Kelley of Atlanta. The lectures, which began in 1974, are intended to “bring to the school distinguished women theologians to speak on concerns for women in ministry.” The lectureship is named for Antoinette Brown, the first woman ordained to the Christian ministry in the United States in 1853.

Previous Antoinette Brown lecturers have included Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sallie McFague, Rita Nakashima Brock, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Elizabeth Schüessler Fiorenza, Sharon Welch, Katie Cannon, Letty Russell, Diana Eck, Renita Weems, Kwok Pui-lan, Susan Thistlethwaite, Mary C. Churchill, Emilie M. Townes, Stephanie Paulsell, Laurel Schneider, Karen Baker-Fletcher, Amina Wadud, Judith Plaskow, Catherine Keller, Amy Hollywood, Monica Coleman, Ellen Armour and Bonnie Miller-McLemore.

Free parking for those attending the lecture and reception will be available in the Wesley Parking Garage, located on 21st Avenue South, in spaces 1-170. The lecture will be recorded and posted to the Divinity YouTube channel in the days following the event. For more information, email Sha’Tika Brown or call (615) 936-8453.