Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp

Interim Dean of the Graduate School
Vice Provost for Graduate Education
Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor of Religion and Politics
PhD, Yale University
BA, Amherst College
research interests:
  • African American Religions
  • Mormonism
  • Religion on the Pacific Borderlands of the Americas
  • Issues of Intercultural Contact
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
      CB 1187
      One Brookings Drive
      St. Louis, MO 63130-4899

    As interim dean of the Graduate School, Laurie Maffly-Kipp awards all the master of arts and doctor of philosophy degrees at Washington University. She works closely with Arts & Sciences, the Olin Business School, the McKelvey School of Engineering, the School of Medicine, and the Brown School in supervising doctoral students in these schools’ doctoral programs.

    Maffly-Kipp’s research and teaching focus on African American religions, Mormonism, religion on the Pacific borderlands of the Americas, and issues of intercultural contact. Her publications are many and include: Religion and Society in Frontier California (Yale University Press, 1994), where she explored the nature of Protestant spiritual practices in Gold Rush California; articles on Mormon-Protestant conflicts in the Pacific Islands, African-Americans in Haiti and Africa, and Protestant outreach to Chinese immigrants in California; a recent volume of essays entitled Practicing Protestants: Histories of Christian Life in America, 1630-1965 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006) with Leigh Schmidt and Mark Valeri; a co-edited collection of essays about Mormonism in the Pacific World, Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier, (University of Utah press, 2008). Most recently she authored Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories (Harvard University Press, 2010); American Scriptures, a Penguin Classics anthology of sacred texts (Penguin, 2010); and Women’s Work, a co-edited collection of writings by African-American women historians (Oxford University Press, 2010). Currently she is working on a survey of Mormonism in American life that will be published by Basic Books.

    Prior to joining the Center, Maffly-Kipp taught for twenty-four years at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Religious Studies and American Studies. She is the recipient of numerous fellowships and grants, including a grant for a collaborative project on the History of Christian Practice from the Lilly Endowment, Inc., fellowships at the National Humanities Center, and an NEH Fellowship for University Professors. Her work in African American religion was honored with the James W.C. Pennington Award from the University of Heidelberg in 2014. Maffly-Kipp is a past president of the American Society of Church History and served in 2015-16 as the president of the Mormon History Association.

    Selected Publications

    Women’s Work: From Antebellum America to the Harlem Renaissance, ed. by Kathryn Lofton and Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp (Oxford University Press, 2010).

    American Scriptures: An Anthology of Sacred Writing, Penguin Classics series, ed. with an introduction by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp (Penguin, 2010).

    Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories (Harvard University Press, 2010).

    Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier, ed. by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp and Reid Neilson (University of Utah Press, 2008).

    Practicing Protestants: Studies in American Christian History, edited with an introduction by Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Leigh Eric Schmidt, and Mark Valeri (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006).

    Religion and Society in Frontier California (Yale University Press, 1994).

    Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories

    Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories

    As early as the 1780s, African Americans told stories that enabled them to survive and even thrive in the midst of unspeakable assault. Tracing previously unexplored narratives from the late eighteenth century to the 1920s, Laurie Maffly-Kipp brings to light an extraordinary trove of sweeping race histories that African Americans wove together out of racial and religious concerns. Asserting a role in God’s plan, black Protestants sought to root their people in both sacred and secular time. A remarkable array of chroniclers—men and women, clergy, journalists, shoemakers, teachers, southerners and northerners—shared a belief that narrating a usable past offered hope, pride, and the promise of a better future. Combining Christian faith, American patriotism, and racial lineage to create a coherent sense of community, they linked past to present, Africa to America, and the Bible to classical literature. From collected shards of memory and emerging intellectual tools, African Americans fashioned stories that helped to restore meaning and purpose to their lives in the face of relentless oppression. In a pioneering work of research and discovery, Maffly-Kipp shows how blacks overcame the accusation that they had no history worth remembering. African American communal histories imagined a rich collective past in order to establish the claim to a rightful and respected place in the American present. Through the transformative power of storytelling, these men and women led their people—and indeed, all Americans—into a more profound understanding of their interconnectedness and their prospects for a common future.