Vaughn A. Booker

Vaughn Booker

George E. Doty, Jr. & Lee Spelman Doty Presidential Associate Professor of Africana Studies

Vaughn A. Booker is the George E. Doty, Jr. and Lee Spelman Doty Presidential Associate Professor of Africana Studies. He comes to Penn from Dartmouth College, where he was Associate Professor of African & African American Studies and Religion. Booker is a historian of religion whose scholarship and teaching center twentieth-century African American religions. He focuses on people who engage in practices of (re)making simultaneously religious and racial identities, communities, and forms of authority. His teaching interests, which incorporate intersectional approaches, include Black religion and culture during Jim Crow, religion and the Civil Rights movement, contemporary Black religious/spiritual memoirs, religion and mourning/memorialization, and modern Black religious/spiritual communities.


Booker received his AB in Religion from Dartmouth College, his MDiv from Harvard Divinity School, and his MA and PhD in Religion from Princeton University, while also earning the Certificate in African American Studies.

Research Interests

African American Religions

Black Religious and Spiritual Authority

Religion and Popular Music

Religion, Irreverence, and Comedy

Religion and Civil Rights / Black Freedom

Religion and Intersectionality

Selected Publications

Booker’s first book, Lift Every Voice and Swing: Black Musicians and Religious Culture in the Jazz Century (NYU Press, 2020), won the Council of Graduate Schools’ 2022 Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities and was a finalist for the American Academy of Religion’s 2021 Religion and the Arts Book Award. One of his current book projects, “From the Back of the Church,” is a history of irreverent religious and spiritual orientations in African American life. Booker is also co-editing a volume on African American Religious History with Dr. Judith Weisenfeld, Dr. Alexis Wells-Oghoghomeh, and Dr. Ahmad Greene-Hayes.

His other academic publications have appeared in The Journal of Africana ReligionsReligion and American Culture: A Journal of InterpretationNova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, and the open-access journal Religions. For a complete publication CV, see



Booker co-chairs the Afro-American Religious History Unit of the American Academy of Religion. In 2022-2023, he was a Distinguished Junior External Faculty Fellow with the Stanford University Humanities Center and the recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship. 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. Booker is also an alumnus of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship program.