About Dr. Harrison
Dr. Harrison‘s research interests include an interdisciplinary and interfaith approach to African American religious history and culture; early American religious history; black feminist/womanist thought; aesthetic theory and the arts; phenomenology; and rituals of healing and resistance.
Education & Artistry
An Interdisciplinary & Interfaith Approach
My creative works draw inspiration from ancestral stories and wisdom and a deep yearning to illuminate injustice to provoke individuals, groups, and institutions to action.
My speaking is a digital echo— in word, technology, and artistic expression. My speaking opens listeners’ sensory perceptions to stir them to self-examination, human goodness, and communal transformation.
My goal in facilitating rituals is to help others bring into focus their destiny, character, and path. Through rituals, one finds inner peace and feels a deeper connection to themselves, their ancestors, and their work in the world.
Teaching is who I am. It is my life’s calling and passion. There is nothing better than seeing the light in my students’ eyes when they connect their history to who they are to the world around them.
Renee K. Harrison is an Associate Professor of African American and US Religious History at Howard University. She joined the School of Divinity faculty in the fall of 2010. Dr. Harrison’s research interests include an interdisciplinary and interfaith approach to African American religious history and culture; early American religious history; black feminist/womanist thought; aesthetic theory and the arts; phenomenology; and rituals of healing and resistance. Harrison is the recipient of awards, grants, and fellowships. She co-facilitated with Dean Yolanda Pierce the Community, Spirituality, and The Arts Series at HUSD. Her latest artistic work, A Requiem for Black Bodies, created, produced, and directed by Harrison, is a contemporary urban production in remembrance of Black people traumatized by racism and violence in the United States. The Requiem aims to help participants sit with historical and ongoing trauma inflicted upon Black people in the US and move to a state of reflection, healing, and action through imagery, music, spoken word, dance, meditation, and ritual. The Requiem is in four parts: The Lament, The Silence, The Healing, and The Activism.
Harrison earned her Bachelor of Arts from California State University Northridge; Master of Divinity and Master of Arts in Religious Education (with honors) from the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia; and Ph.D. in Religion with an interdisciplinary concentration in history, philosophy, feminist/womanist thought, and African American studies from Emory University.
She is the author of Enslaved Women and the Art of Resistance in Antebellum America (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009); Engaged Teaching in Theology and Religion, co-author with Dr. Jennie Knight, University of Virginia (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Harrison’s most recent publication, Black Hands, White House: Slave Labor and the Making of America, documents and appraises the role enslaved women, men, and children played in building the US and its physical and fiscal infrastructure. The work highlights the material commodities produced by enslaved communities during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. These commodities—namely, cotton, tobacco, and sugar—enriched European and US economies, contributed to the material and monetary wealth of the nation’s founders and other early European immigrants and their descendants, and bolstered the wealth of present-day companies founded during the American slave era. Black Hands also examines the role enslaved laborers played inbuilding the infrastructure of the nation’s capital and its federal buildings—the White House, US Capitol, Department of the Treasury, Smithsonian Castle, and so forth. Given the enslaved community’s contribution to the US, this work calls for the erection of a stand-alone National Enslaved Labor Memorial Sanctuary on the National Mall honoring enslaved Black peoples’ sacrifice, labor, and contributions. Such a memorial, commissioned by the US government, could also serve as a public demonstration of the US government’s admission and role in slavery and human harm and acknowledge the karmic debt owed to these first-Black-bodied builders of America.
A native of Los Angeles, California, Harrison is a retired 11-year veteran of the LAPD and the former executive director of A Leap of Faith Productions, a non-profit community-based theater group in Los Angeles. She is an artist, poet, and playwright who loves loves loves teaching! She also enjoys spending her spare time researching and writing, walking on the beach, playing and watching tennis (no doubt Serena), viewing all things DuVernay and Rhimes, and traveling with her spouse Yolonda and pup Satchmo.
Subscribe for Updates
Please enter your name and email address below to receive updates on the book launch, speaking engagements, and more.