Book with insights on black politics, religion wins Grawemeyer Award


    LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A book filled with fresh insights on the relationship between black politics and religion has earned its author the 2012 Louisville Grawemeyer Award in Religion.

    Barbara D. Savage, a professor of history and American social thought at the University of Pennsylvania, is receiving the prize for the ideas set forth in her book, “Your Spirits Walk Beside Us: The Politics of Black Religion,” published in 2008 by Harvard University Press.

    The book introduces important new perspectives on the study of black religion and the political role of African American churches, said award director Susan Garrett.

    “Besides explaining why it is misleading to speak of ‘the black church’ given the enormous diversity among African American congregations, Savage challenges the popular belief that black churches have been prophetic and politically active throughout history,” Garrett said.

    Savage also shows how black women excluded from religious leadership and the formal study of black religion became leaders outside their churches, including Nannie Helen Burroughs, who founded one of the nation’s first vocational schools for women.

    A Penn faculty member since 1995, Savage teaches courses on American religious and social reform, 20th Century African American history and the relationship between media and politics. She has held administrative posts at Penn’s Center for Africana Studies and previously worked as a staff member in the U.S. Congress.

    The University of Louisville presents four Grawemeyer Awards each year for outstanding works in music composition, world order, psychology and education. The university and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary jointly give a fifth award in religion. This year’s awards are $100,000 each.

    For more details on the awards or to download Savage’s photo, see