Gary Dorrien Wins 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Religion


IARPT congratulates Gary Dorrien, who was named the recipient of the 2017 Grawemeyer Award in Religion for his book, The New Abolition: W.E.B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel. Dr. Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and a Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest and lifelong athlete, he is a recent past president of the American Theological Society and the author of seventeen books.

The Grawemeyer Award, spearheaded by Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary and the University of Louisville, pays tribute to the power of creative ideas, emphasizing the impact that a single idea, as opposed to a life-long career, can have on the world. The prize was founded by H. Charles Grawemeyer and is awarded each year in the fields of music, political science, psychology, education, and religion.

In The New Abolition, Dr. Dorrien describes the early history of the Black Social Gospel from its nineteenth-century founding to its close association in the 20th century with W.E.B. Du Bois. He offers a new perspective on modern Christianity and the civil rights era by delineating the tradition of social justice theology and activism that led to Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We urgently need this historical and theological account in our religious communities and public discourse,” said Tyler Mayfield, Faculty Director of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion and the A.B. Rhodes Associate Professor of Old Testament at Louisville Seminary. “Dorrien’s book highlights a disremembered part of American religious history, one that holds relevance for contemporary discussions about race and U.S. religion. His compelling narration of the Black Social Gospel as a profoundly religious tradition of thought and activism underscores the crucial connections among the Black Church, social Christianity, the creation of black institutions, and the struggle for freedom.”