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Humans of the U: Jaimie D. Crumley

“I was a senior in college, majoring in religion, when I first learned about something called liberation theology. Liberation theology grows out of the Roman Catholic tradition and is the idea that God is on the side of oppressed people and that we can read scripture to see the ways God is at work in the lives of oppressed people. Through that, I learned about something called womanism—a type of theology or political thought that centers on the lived experiences of Black women.

Learning about these concepts really changed my perspective, not only as a burgeoning intellectual on my way to divinity school but also as a human. It made me feel like I was represented in a religious tradition that I’d always been part of. I had never understood that there were other people who looked like me and believed like me and were also trying to figure out where they fit into this story. This is what led me to divinity school. I wanted to understand myself, but I also wanted to serve people like me.

While in divinity school, I went into an archive for the first time as part of an assignment. I was terrified. But through this experience, I discovered a love of piecing together the stories of Black religious women and especially thinking about their politics. This changed my trajectory and I started to pursue research.

After divinity school, I applied for Ph.D. programs. I also worked as a minister, which changed how I approach my work in a couple of ways. First, I hope to be a good storyteller. One thing I’ve gained through divinity school is learning how to preach and how to teach with creativity. This helps me use an archival record to piece together a story that feels salient and relevant in our day and time.

I think the other thing is empathy. People like me who work on the history of race, gender and religion are dealing with hard topics. I have to think about slavery, which is terrible. I have to think about racial violence, which is terrible. I have to think about sexual violence, which is terrible.

Sometimes we look at these people from the past and we’re very judgmental of them. Perhaps rightfully so, but I also think we have to remember that they were also human and they were products of their time in the same way we are. If the world lasts long enough, there will be people writing our history and I really hope that they’re kind.”

— Jaimie D. Crumley, assistant professor, gender studies