ISM Fellows in Conversation | African American Womanist Preaching with Dr. Melanie R. Hill

November 18, 2021

Part of the ISM Fellows in Conversation Podcast.

Interviewed by Kalvin Cummings (M.A.R. ‘22)

Introduction by Clare Byrne (M.A.R. religion & music ‘22)

ISM Fellow Dr. Melanie R. Hill, assistant professor of American literature at Rutgers University, grew up attuned to the rhythms and cadences of African American preaching. Attending a church under the leadership of two remarkable women preachers in Norfolk, Virginia, Dr. Hill embarked on her own interdisciplinary path of performance, research, and scholarship. It was these women’s distinctive approaches to preaching — crafting multi-layered textures out of word and sound while speaking to race, gender, and justice — that form the foundation of Dr. Hill’s book project at the ISM, Colored Women Sittin’ on High: Womanist Sermon Practice in Literature and Music. In the project Dr. Hill explores, among other themes, how African American literature mutually influenced and informed Black womanist preaching. Dr. Hill says, “So this whole notion of literature, music and theology … all of these elements have really been the heartbeat of who I am — not only of my research, but of who I am as a scholar and an artist.”