Wallace Best Appointed Assistant Professor of African American Religious Studies


Wallace D. Best has accepted an appointment as Assistant Professor of African American Religious Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and will join the Faculty of Divinity in July 2004. 

"The addition of a superb American religious historian to our faculty is a welcome one, especially when he brings a specialization in African American religion to our area coverage," Dean William A. Graham said on March 25 in announcing the appointment. "Wallace Best has already written one important, soon-to-appear book on African American religion in Chicago in the wake of the Great Migration, and his current project, on black Pentecostalism and its role in the global Pentecostal movement, promises to be of even larger significance. Dr. Best's reputation as a scholar, teacher, and colleague is of the highest order, and we feel very fortunate to have him join our ranks."

Since 2000, Best has been an assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia. During the 2003-04 academic year, he is a fellow at Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research; during the 2002-03 academic year, he was a fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. His book Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion in Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952 will be published by Princeton University Press later this year.

"I am honored to join the distinguished faculty at Harvard Divinity School," said Best. "HDS is a place I have long held in high esteem for its rich tradition of rigorous scholarship and forthright theological inquiry. I am excited for the opportunity to bring my training in African American religious studies to bear on a curriculum committed to educating religious leaders to face an increasingly complex world."

Best received a PhD in United States history from Northwestern University. He also holds a master's degree in theological studies from Wheaton College in Illinois, and a BA from Washington Bible College in Maryland. 

Working within the fields of American and African American religious studies, his research and writing focus on the relationship between migration, urbanization, and religious transformation. His teaching at the University of Virginia has centered on the way social, cultural, and demographic shifts influence religious experience and practice. His latest work deals with the issue of gender and religion and seeks to place African American Pentecostalism within the context of the Pentecostal movement worldwide.

He has also worked on a number of public history projects, including two PBS documentaries, This Far by Faith and Soldiers Without Swords: The Black Press. In addition, he was co-curator of a photographic and manuscript exhibit on the life of Elder Lucy Smith, held at the Carter Woodson regional branch of the Chicago Public Library.