Mitzi J. Smith to Present March 23 Anna Julia Cooper Lecture

February 20, 2023

Mitzi SmithCandler’s Black Church Studies Program will welcome Mitzi J. Smith, J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary, as distinguished guest speaker for the 2023 Anna Julia Cooper Lecture on March 23 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Room 252 of Candler’s Rita Anne Rollins Building. The event is free and open to the public, with registration required.

This annual lecture is named for Anna Julia Cooper, one of the most influential Black scholars of the 19th and 20th centuries. Born into slavery in 1858, Cooper graduated from Oberlin College and the Sorbonne, becoming the fourth African American woman in the U.S. to earn a PhD. She served as a public-school teacher and principal in Washington, D.C. for more than 30 years, and remained a prominent educator, activist, and author until her death at age 105. Smith will speak on Cooper’s legacy and her impact on womanist interpretation.

“We Will Neither Hide Nor Shrink: Anna Julia Cooper’s Legacy and the Audacity of Womanist Interpretation”

Despite attempts to deny and limit the educational and social reforms Anna Julia Cooper envisioned and fought for, she refused to be denied. In the early years, Cooper, for example, was learning Greek under a table and sneaking into the library. But she was neither hiding nor shrinking from the battle; she was preparing for the war. Cooper left us a legacy of undeterred improvisation, of pushing back against closed doors, of transgressing racist and sexist laws and epistemologies. Radical and progressive womanist interpretation stands in Cooper’s legacy of push-back. Push-back is necessary in our context of rolled-back rights and violent policies, of the weaponization of sacred texts and readings, and of the monopolization of truth and epistemologies in our churches and educational institutions, in society, and at every level of government. We can neither hide nor cower.

Mitzi J. Smith is J. Davison Philips Professor of New Testament at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia and Professor Extraordinarius in the University of South Africa’s Institute for Gender Studies. She earned her PhD from Harvard University, MDiv from Howard University School of Divinity, and MA in Black Studies from The Ohio State University. Smith proposed and is the first chair of the Womanist Interpretation program unit of the Society of Biblical Literature. She launched the Beyond the Womanist Classroom podcast in late 2022.

Her book publications include Womanist Sass and Talk Back: Social Injustice, Intersectionality, and Biblical Interpretation (Cascade Books, 2018); I Found God in Me: A Womanist Biblical Hermeneutics Reader (Cascade Books, 2015); and Insights from African American Interpretation (Fortress Press, 2017). Smith’s new book Chloe and Her People: A Womanist Critical Dialogue with First Corinthians (Cascade Books, 2023) will be released later this year.

Smith has co-authored We Are All Witnesses: Toward Disruptive and Creative Interpretation (Cascade Books, 2023) with Michael Newheart; Toward Decentering the New Testament (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2018) with Yung Suk Kimand Bitter the Chastening Rod: Africana Biblical Interpretation after Stony the Road We Trod in the Age of BLM, SayHerName, and MeToo (Fortress Academic Press, 2022) with Angela Parker and Ericka Dunbar Hill.

Register to attend the Anna Julia Cooper Lecture here.