Vaughn A. Booker

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor of African and African American Studies
Assistant Professor of Religion

Vaughn received his A.B. in Religion from Dartmouth (’07), his M.Div. from Harvard, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in Religion from Princeton, with a Certificate in African American Studies. A historian of religion, his scholarship focuses on twentieth-century African American religions, including studies of religion and gender, leadership, conversion, popular music, humor, "race histories," memoir, visual/material culture, metaphysics/spirituality, memorialization/mourning, activism, and internationalism.  Vaughn's academic publications have appeared in The Journal of Africana Religions, Religion and American Culture: A Journal of Interpretation, Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, and the open-access journal Religions.

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Vaughn is currently an editorial board member for The Immanent Frame. In 2020, he was awarded the Class of 1962 Faculty Fellowship. "Supported with funds provided through the generosity of the Dartmouth Class of 1962, the Class of 1962 Fellowship is awarded to a junior faculty member with excellence in teaching and promise as a scholar." He was selected as one of 10 junior Religion faculty nationwide to be in the 2019-2020 cohort of the Young Scholars in American Religion Program (read the cohort profiles here). Vaughn is also an alumnus of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program.

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210 Thornton Hall, Religion; 201 Choate House, AAAS
African and African American Studies
Ph. D. Princeton University
M. A. Princeton University
M. Div. Harvard University
A. B. Dartmouth College

Selected Publications


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)

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

      --Reviewed in Reading Religion:

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

Encyclopedia Entries

Abraham Joshua Heschel,” “Mordecai Wyatt Johnson,” “George Dennis Sale Kelsey,” and “Benjamin Elijah Mays,” in The Martin Luther King, Jr., Encyclopedia, ed. Clayborne Carson, et al. (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2007).

Public Scholarly Engagement

"How to Think beyond ‘the Black Church’ and the Trope of Generational Rebellion,” The Black Church in American Public Life, the Berkley Forum, Georgetown University, co-sponsored by the Center on African-American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice, Columbia University; April 8, 2021.

"Prosperity Meets the Poor: The Mission of Mother Waddles in Urban America,” Sacred Writes – Faithfully Magazine, October 8, 2020

Keeping Duke Ellington Alive in Matter and in Spirit,” Sacred Matters: Religious Currents in Culture, July 22, 2020

"The Church of Jazz - An Interview with Author Vaughn Booker," 360° Sound, Jul 16, 2020

"Ask the Expert: The Meaning of Jazz," in Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (July-Aug 2020)

Performance,” for the “A Universe of Terms” series, ed. Mona Oraby and Daniel Vaca, The Immanent Frame: Secularism, Religion and the Public Sphere, December 20, 2019

Interview with Tiffanie Wen on the future of religion, “Eight Dartmouth Professors Peer into the Future (It’s not all scary.),” in Dartmouth Alumni Magazine (May-Jun 2018)

"The False God of Nationalism," a piece for The New School's Public Seminar, January 9, 2018

A 2017 interview with Professor Judith Weisenfeld of Princeton University, discussing her book, New World A-Coming: Black Religion and Racial Identity during the Great Migration  (NYU Pr.) in Religion & Politics.

Resource List for studying Race and Religion in American History, 2014

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 and 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."