The Christian Theological Seminary (CTS) library has been significantly expanding its collection of texts related to the African American religious, cultural, and historical experience to support its new PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric. This collection, which now totals more than 500 new titles and includes access to several digital academic databases, deepens the already robust collection of related texts in the CTS library. According to former CTS Library Director Anthony J. Elia, “the goal of this project was to create the best collection of its kind in the state of Indiana.”
Although designed specifically to provide support CTS’s new PhD program, the collection intends to serve the CTS community broadly and will be available to CTS students and community members. It is distinct in name only, and the texts are located in the circulating collection in the library. Library patrons can search the list of titles the library has compiled or request titles from the list.
The collection is wide ranging and includes materials related to history, preaching, literature, biblical studies, gender studies, women’s studies, cultural studies, and more. Elia described the collection as “Broad, yet focused. Encompassing, yet directed. It [aims to] be expansive enough to give the historical view of the work our students are doing, while being specific enough to give them the exact tools to conduct their work thoroughly.”
While the collection contains numerous religious, theological, and historical works, a focus of the collection’s development was literature, historical and contemporary, with a special eye to works that emerged from the Harlem Renaissance. “This period flourished with creativity and scholarship in African American communities, which has served as a foundation and beacon not only to the traditions of the generations of African Americans today, but to our entire American experience,” Elia explained. From this period and others, the collection includes many works of literature, including poetry and fiction. “Literature informs us of elements of history that are not always present in non-fiction writing and lifts voices that are often unheard,” Elia remarked. “It’s powerful and imperative that the literary voices are heard, like the great Harlem Renaissance poet and leader James Weldon Johnson penned, ‘lift every voice and sing!’”
Professor Frank A. Thomas, the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics and the Director of the PhD program, worked alongside Elia on the project. About the collection, Thomas said, “CTS has made a groundbreaking commitment to African American Studies in general and African American preaching in particular. I can hardly contain my excitement about the level of scholarship that is available.”
The collection includes numerous texts by writers and scholars such as James Baldwin, Octavia Butler, Kelly Brown Douglas, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Robin D.G. Kelley, Vincent Lloyd, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Richard Wright, George Yancey, and many more.
Access the CTS library’s website here.
More information about the PhD Program in African American Preaching and Sacred Rhetoric can be found here.