In 1987, the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon, the first Black woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), used the term “Womanist” to explore an interpretation of the Bible connected to Black women’s liberation. Her book that followed one year later, "Black Womanist Ethics," helped launch the field of womanist ethics.
The Presbyterian Historical Society (PHS) is thrilled to announce that this year, 35 years after the publication of that groundbreaking work, the entirety of Cannon’s personal papers has been digitized and made freely accessible through Pearl Digital Collections.
In 2021, PHS partnered with the Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond and The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University Libraries) to unite the records Cannon distributed across the three institutions. Over a two-year period, PHS staff members scanned and digitized over 450 of Cannon’s sermons, lectures and writings.
The result — the Katie Geneva Cannon Digital Collection — can now be accessed from anywhere in the world for free.
The digital collection was funded by PHS’s African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative. The AALC redoubles PHS’s efforts to document Black lives, work and witness in an increasingly multicultural church — from the organization of the First African Presbyterian Church in 1807 to the election of the first African American Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in 2016. Click here to learn more about the African American Leaders and Congregations Collecting Initiative.
PHS shared about the collection in its Spring 2023 issue of Presbyterian Heritage, the society’s bi-annual newsletter. Along with the Katie Geneva Cannon Digital Collection, the issue also highlighted incoming collection items including recently digitized records from the Rev. Dr. Edler Hawkins, the first Black moderator of the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and U-matic videotapes that document More Light Presbyterians history.
On the evening of October 12 from 5 p.m. through 7 p.m. Eastern Time, PHS will host an event in Philadelphia to honor Cannon’s legacy and celebrate the completion of the project. Guests will hear about the impact of her work and explore records digitized as part of the project. Click here to register for this free event.