Rev. Dr. Yolanda Pierce is Professor and Dean of the Howard University School of Divinity in Washington, DC. She is the first woman to be appointed as Dean in the Divinity School’s 150-year history. In 2016, Pierce served as the Founding Director of the Center for African American Religious Life at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Previously, she served as the Director of the Center for Black Church Studies and Associate Professor of Religion and Literature at Princeton Theological Seminary for 9 years. Pierce holds a Ph.D. and two M.A. degrees from Cornell University and undergraduate degrees from Princeton University.
Pierce’s research specialties include African American Religious History; Womanist Theology; African American Literature; and Race and Religion. Pierce’s most recent book (Hell Without Fires: Slavery, Christianity & the African American Spiritual Narrative) and forthcoming book (Religious Ecstasy & African American Cultural Expression) focus on the historical and contemporary significance of the African American religious tradition. She has written over 50 critical essays and articles in academic and trade journals which consider the relationship between religious faith, race, and gender in the American context. You can find her work in a wide variety of publications, including Time Magazine; Christian Century; Theology Today; and Christianity & Literature.
Pierce is the creator and curator of “Touching the Sacred,” a recent exhibit on material religion and the Black Church. She is a member of various professional organizations, including the Modern Language Association, the American Academy of Religion, and the American Historical Association. Pierce has been the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, and the Pew Foundation. In 2015, she was honored to be selected as one of The Root 100 Most Influential African Americans.
In addition to her teaching and academic scholarship, Yolanda Pierce is a dedicated mentor, community activist, board member of a foster care agency, and cable news commentator. She maintains a public intellectual presence through her blogs and frequent appearances on television and radio. She believes that teaching and scholarship are meaningful only if they truly enhance people’s daily lives, thus she works tirelessly to bridge the gaps between pulpit, pew, and academy. A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha, Sorority, Inc., and a native New Yorker, Pierce was raised in the Church of God in Christ and still maintains a close connection to her Pentecostal roots.