Black August: Shively T.J. Smith on Anti-Racist Biblical Interpretation

Black August Series

August 17, 2023, 7:30pm Eastern Time

Anti-Racist Biblical Interpretation: How Activists, Allies and Colleagues can Connect with and Amplify the Work of Black Biblical Scholars

Drawing from her article, “Preliminary Thoughts: The Hermeneutical Dilemmas of the Allies, Colleagues and Guild of African American Biblical Scholar-Teachers,” published in Black Scholars Matter, Dr. Shively Smith will outline a set of principles by which those working to end racism can participate in the transformation of biblical understanding that Black/Africana biblical scholars are striving to animate. She will give examples of the application of these principles, drawing from her own research and engagement with historical and contemporary anti-racism organizing.

Dr. Smith will be joined in conversation by Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam from the Center for the Repair of Historical Harms of the Presbyterian Church USA. The session will be hosted and facilitated by Ericka Dunbar, co-editor of Bitter the Chastening Rod: Africana Biblical Interpretation after Stony the Road We Trod in the Age of BLM, SayHerName, and MeToo.

This year’s Black August series is focused on how the experiences of struggle to overcome racism, slavery and mass incarceration have informed Black/Africana biblical interpretation, and how Black scholars are using the understanding embedded in these experiences to reshape the field of biblical scholarship. The series is being curated by Hugh Page (co-editor of Black Scholars Matter) and Angela Parker (co-editor of Bitter the Chastening Rod), along with Nicholas Johnson, Sr. Sharifa Vernice Meytung, Sherly Fabre, Warren Cooper, Carolyn Grice and Amy Dalton. Bios are available at We are grateful for the co-sponsorship of Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary and the Community of Living Traditions.

Rev. Dr. Shively T. J. Smith is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology. As a scholar of New Testament, Smith writes and teaches on all 27 books of the New Testament, but her particular focus is on the traditions of Peter and the General Letters of the New Testament, diaspora studies, approaches to biblical interpretation (hermeneutics), Womanist and African American biblical interpretation, and Howard Thurman. She completed her PhD in New Testament Studies at Emory University, publishing her first book called, Strangers to Family: Diaspora and First Peter’s Invention of God’s Household with Baylor University Press. She is a prolific public intellectual, contributing regularly to the online Working Preacher Lectionary series, and appearing in the History Channel Documentary “Jesus, His Life,” the documentary “The Rape of Recy Taylor,” and the cocumentary “Backs Against the Wall” about Howard Thurman, to name a few. She serves on the Society for Biblical Literature’s Women in the Bible Steering Committee, the board of trustees for the Forum for Theological Exploration, and many other roles. Click here for her full bio.

Rev. Jermaine Ross-Allam is the Director of the Center for the Repair of Historic Harms at the Presbyterian Mission Agency, a PhD candidate in Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and a volunteer activist-theologian with Restorative Actions, an economic equity initiative. Rev. Ross-Allam was ordained as minister by the Presbytery of the Twin Cities in 2013 where he served executive director of 21st Century Academy at Kwanzaa Community Church PC(USA) and Associate Pastor for Social Justice at Oak Grove Presbyterian Church. He is currently based in Aibonito, Puerto Rico along with his wife Cherech Ross-Allam.

Dr. Ericka Shawndricka Dunbar is an Assistant Professor of Religion at Baylor University and holds a PhD in Biblical Studies (Hebrew Testament) from Drew University. Her first book, Trafficking Hadassah: Collective Trauma, Cultural Memory, and Identity in the Book of Esther and the African Diaspora (Routledge, 2021) is a dialogical cultural study of sexual trafficking in the book of Esther and during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. She served as co-editor of Bitter the Chastening Rod: Africana Biblical Interpretation after Stony the Road We Trod in the Age of BLM, SayHerName, and MeToo, and is an ordained elder in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. Read Full Bio