Vaughn A. Booker

Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor of Religion and African and African American Studies

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. His focus is the historical study of twentieth-century African American religions, including religion and popular music, "race histories," gender and religious leadership, visual and material culture, African American metaphysical religions, practices of memorialization and mourning, and African American religious 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. Vaughn is also an alumnus of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) program. Recently, Vaughn 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).

305 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)

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

"'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

Book Reviews

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 (eprint link).

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

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.

Speaking engagements

"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

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."

Religion and the Civil Rights Movement

"This was one of my favorite classes I've taken at Dartmouth--really reminded me how much I don't know about the history of our country. I think what I've learned in this course will stay with me and will influence how I interact with the world and other future learning."

"I was nervous going into this course because it was unlike anything I've taken before. However, this was by far one of the most intensive and interesting courses that I've taken at Dartmouth."

"I learned more in this class than maybe any other class I have taken.  I came into it not really knowing that much about the CRM or religion. I now know a lot, to say the least."

"The professor let the subject speak for itself in a positive manner, providing a voice on the topic but presenting it holistically to the class. The professor offered opportunities for many perspectives and had certain days where the organization fed strongly into the class discussion."

"I learned how I wanted to engage within individual classes and how I could help shape class discussion. It was an enjoyable course."

"Very interesting and unlike any of the other religion classes I have taken at Dartmouth."

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."