Current Size: 100%
Rev. Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D
Rev. Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D
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
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 an advisor to the "Remapping American Christianities" initiative at Religion Dispatches and
she 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 an ordained Christian
minister, 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, and so she works tirelessly to bridge the gaps between
pulpit, pew, and academy. Pierce is a native New Yorker and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha
Sorority, Inc. She was raised in the Church of God in Christ and still maintains a close connection to
her Pentecostal roots.