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Dennis C. Dickerson

Reverend James M. Lawson Chair in History, Emeritus

Dennis C. Dickerson specializes in American Labor History, the History of the U. S. civil rights movement, and African American religious history. 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. His 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. His fourth book, THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH: A HISTORY (New York, Cambridge University Press, 2020)  examines over two centuries of an African American religious body and how its insurgent impulses reckoned with powerful national and international systems aimed at black subjugation. 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.

His current book project is a "'Brother in the Spirit of Gandhi:' William Stuart Nelson and the Religious Origins of the Civil Rights Movement." Also, he is co-writing with colleagues Daniel Cornfield and Larry Isaac a book that is tentatively titled “Making a Nonviolent Movement: Nashville’s Pivotal Role in the Struggle for Civil Rights.”

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 where he 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.