#MyVoiceMyBody: Minoritized Bodies in the Pulpit at Duke Chapel (2019-2020)


Housed in Duke Libraries, the Duke University Chapel Recordings digital archive contains 50 years of sermons preached at the Chapel before 2001. Not only is the archive a treasure trove of recognized American preachers, it also asks contemporary questions about intersections of body, place and performance in the space of the pulpit.

A 2018 Story+ project investigated the relationship between the regular activity of Sunday morning preaching with the extraordinary public protest and social change between February 1, 1960 (the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in) and July 2, 1964 (the passage of the Civil Rights Act). Students researched the contents of the Duke Chapel Recordings and created a digital timeline and exhibition.

Building on this work, a Bass Connections project will examine sermons by people “minoritized” across spectrums of gender, nationality and sexual orientation who preached at Duke Chapel between 1972 and 2001. The project will activate interdisciplinary work on intersectional questions of authority, embodiment and identity in performance.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project team will review sermon transcriptions to confirm accuracy and consider innovative ways to map these sermons beyond the liturgical frameworks of church year, appointed readings or name recognition to discover research directions for future users. This work will expand the archive’s utility to include new approaches—for example, to the fields of History, Women’s Studies, Performance Studies, Ethnography, Sociology, Literature and Philosophy—mitigated through the history of one pulpit located in the American South.

In the spring, the project team will host a symposium to consider the limits and potentials of the archive and the related pedagogical portal for classroom use and for preachers who wish to expand their repertoire of style, content and approach to ministry.

Activating the archive for a broader academic community will advance the conversation about sermons’ potential to move local, national and international narratives toward inclusion and justice. Scholars and preachers will gain access to a vibrant online resource of curated examples that point to the demands and potentials of preaching in America.

Anticipated Outputs

Content-rich map of existing data; online exhibition of interviews and timelines; conference papers and presentations; outline for a future project connecting homiletics, humanities and/or social sciences


Fall 2019 – Spring 2020

  • Fall 2019: Determine tasks based on what emerges from summer; continue generative mapping and considerations for further research
  • Spring 2020: Continue transcript and metadata confirmation; generate videos of key interviewees and their relationship to preaching today; conduct summary meeting to map detailed plans; participate in panel on projects for symposia; generate proposals for Academy of Homiletics gathering at Princeton Seminary; design symposia for April 2021

This Team in the News

Duke Senior’s Sermon Feb. 23 to Find Equality Before God

See related Story+ summer projects, #MyVoiceMyBody: Minoritized Bodies in the Pulpit at Duke Chapel (2019) and Preaching and Protest: Sermons from Duke Chapel during the Civil Rights Era (2018).


Image: Desmond Tutu at Duke Chapel, courtesy of Duke University Archives

Desmond Tutu at Duke Chapel, courtesy of Duke University Archives.

Team Leaders

  • Peace Lee, Divinity School
  • Jerusha Neal, Divinity School
  • Luke Powery, Divinity School

/graduate Team Members

  • Krystal Bracy, Divinity-MDV
  • Howard Kim, Divinity-MDV
  • Austin Maynor, Divinity-MDV

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Crystal Chiu
  • Elizabeth Grantland, English (AB), African/African Am St (AB2)
  • Muhammad Nadeem

/yfaculty/staff Team Members

  • Thomas F. DeFrantz, Arts & Sciences-African and African American Studies
  • Olie Gnagno, Womens Center
  • Marcia Rego, Arts & Sciences-Thompson Writing Program
  • James (Bradley) Rogers, Arts & Sciences-Theater Studies