As is tradition, the Seminary of the Southwest community came together over the month of February for several celebratory and reflective events in recognition of Black History Month, which takes place each February. Southwest honored the contributions of African Americans in the United States and confronted the future of race in the church and country, focusing on the theme “400 Years Later: The Enduring Legacy of Slavery in America.”
On February 12, the Black History Month keynote address was delivered by the Rev. Melanie Jones, the Crump Visiting Professor and Black Religious Scholars Group Scholar-in-Residence at Southwest. In her address, “A God Who Sees,” Jones explored the biblical story of Hagar – the African woman enslaved by Abraham who bears his son Ishmael – and its correlation with the story of black women through the legacy of slavery.
On the last day of the month, Southwest gathered for a special service of Holy Eucharist honoring Anna Julia Haywood Cooper, an author and educator who became one of the first African American women to receive her PhD, in 1924, and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright, a pioneer educator among African Americans in the late 19th century.
The service was enlivened by the presence of guest preacher the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Walton, Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and the Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church of Harvard University and Professor of Religion and Society, Harvard Divinity School, and musical guest Southwest alumna Christie D. Campbell. Before a Christ Chapel full of Southwest community members and visitors from around Austin, Walton preached on the Luke 4 passage in which Jesus has finished his temptation in the wilderness only to find his true temptation when he comes back among his community.
“Under the leadership of Britt James, Black History Month at Seminary of the Southwest was both solemn and joyful,” said the Very Rev. Cynthia Briggs Kittredge, dean and president of Seminary of the Southwest. “In challenging political times, we affirmed that Black History is American History. The keynote delivered by Melanie Jones underscored the importance of the seminary’s partnership with the Black Religious Scholars Group. The final service with the Rev. Jonathon Walton preaching and Christie Campbell offering her gift of music brought together the wider Austin community for an evening of worship and fellowship. We are grateful to all those who have made Black History Month a highlight of our life together.”
Additional events included special services celebrating the feasts of Frederick Douglass, the American abolitionist, and Absalom Jones, the first African American to be ordained in The Episcopal Church, and a service of Ethiopian Evening Prayer.
Britt James, the Southwest Black History Month committee chair, reflected on the unique impact of this year’s events: “What resonated on campus most this Black History Month was the diversity of thought and experience in relation to our conversation topics. We had great representation from students, faculty, staff, and the wider Austin community.”
Black History Month keynote address and reception
Black History Month celebration of the Holy Eucharist, dinner reception,
and book signing with the Rev. Jonathan Walton