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Dennis C. Dickerson

James M. Lawson, Jr. Professor of History

Dennis C. Dickerson specializes in American Labor History, the History of the U. S. civil rights movement, and African American religious history. He also is interested in the social history of American medicine and Wesleyan Studies. He has written Out of the Crucible: Black Steel Workers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980 (Albany, State University of New York Press, 1986) which chronicles the failed century long struggle of black steel laborers to attain occupational parity with their Caucasian counterparts. He also wrote Militant Mediator: Whitney M. Young, Jr. (Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1998) which analyzes the leadership of a major leader in the U. S. civil rights movement in the 1960s. This book was awarded the 1999 Distinguished Book from the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. Dickerson's new book, African American Preachers and Politics: The Careys of Chicago (Jackson, University Press of Mississippi, 2010) examines the intersection between religion and politics in the careers of two clergy/politicians during most of the 20th century. He has received grants and fellowships to support his research and writing from the American Academy in Berlin, American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment of the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Louisville Institute.

Dickerson served as Historiographer of the African Methodist Episcopal Church from 1988 to 2012 and in this capacity has written Religion, Race, and Region: Research Notes on A.M.E. Church History (Nashville, A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 1995), A Liberated Past: Explorations in A.M.E. Church History (Nashville, A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 2003), and African Methodism and its Wesleyan Heritage: Reflections on AME Church History (Nashville, A.M.E. Sunday School Union, 2009).

He has been a member and presenter at the 11th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies in 2002 and at the 12th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies in 2007, and the 13th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies in 2013 at Christ Church College, Oxford University, Oxford, England. In 2006 he was a scholar-in-residence at the Methodist University of Sao Paulo/Faculty of Theology (Universidade Metodista de Sao Paulo Faculdade de Teologia in Sao Paulo, Brazil). He contributed "The African American Wing of the Wesleyan Tradition," in Randy L. Maddox and Jason E. Vickers, Editors, The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley, New York, Cambridge University Press, 2010. Also, he is a contributor to Henry H. Knight, III, editor, From Aldersgate to Azusa Street: Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal Visions of the New Creation (Eugene, Oregon, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2010) additionally, he wrote “Liberation, Wesleyan Theology, and Early African Methodism, 1760-1840,” Wesley and Methodist Studies, Volume 3, (Manchester, UK, Didsbury Press, 2011) pp. 109-120, contributed "Formation and Consolidation of African American Religious Communities, 1865-1945," to Stephen Stein, editor, The Cambridge History of Religions in America, Volume II, 1790-1945 (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2012), pp. 300-323, and is co-author with Larry W. Isaac, Daniel B. Cornfield, James M. Lawson Jr. and Jonathan S. Coley of "'Movement Schools' and Dialogical Diffusion of Nonviolent Praxis: Nashville Workshops in the Southern Civil Rights Movement," in Sharon Erickson Nepstad and Lester R. Kurtz, Editors, Nonviolent Conflict and Civil Resistance: Research in Social Movements, Conflicts and Change, Volume 34, (Bingley, U.K., Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2012), pp. 155-184. He contributed "African American Methodists and the Making of the Civil Rights Movement," in Jason E. Vickers, editor, The Cambridge Companion to American Methodism (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2013), pp. 296-315). Also, he has published "James M. Lawson, Jr: Methodism, Nonviolence and the Civil Rights Movement," Methodist History, April 2014, pp.168-186, "William Stuart Nelson and the Interfaith Origins of the Civil Rights Movement," in R. Drew Smith, William Ackah, and Anthony G. Reddie, editors, Churches, Blackness, and Contested Multiculturailism: Europe, Africa, and North America (New York, Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) pp. 57-72, "Preparation Pathways and Movement Participation: Insurgent Schooling and Nonviolent Direct Action in the Nashville Civil Righs Movement," (co-author with Larry W. Isaac and Daniel Cornfield), Mobilization, vol. 21, July 2016, pp.155-176, and "The Great Migration," in Heath W. Carter and Laura Rominger Porter, editors, Turning Points in the History of American Evangelicalism, (Grand Rapids, Michigan, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2017), pp. 180-202.

His current book projects include "'Brother in the Spirit of Gandhi:' William Stuart Nelson and the Religious Origins of the Civil Rights Movement," and "A Short History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church" which is under contract to Cambridge University Press.

He served as President of the American Society of Church History, 2004-2005 and is a member of the editorial board of Wesley and Methodist Studies.

Before coming to Vanderbilt Dickerson taught at Williams College from 1976 to 1999 and was Stanfield Professor History, Chairman of the Department of History, and Chairman of the Afro-American Studies Program. He has also taught at Rhodes College, Yale Divinity School, and Payne Theological Seminary.