(Yolanda Nicole Pierce)
Office—Department of History, Princeton Theological Seminary, 10 Tennent Hall, Princeton, NJ 08542-0803. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer, educator. University of Kentucky, Lexington, former assistant professor of English and African American Studies; Princeton Theological Seminary, Princeton, NJ, Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature. Womanist Scholar, Interdenominational Theological Center, 2001-02. Speaker at professional conferences, including the Lyman T. Johnson Banquet, 2001, and the British Women Writers Conference, 2007, on the black church, black women's writings, and slave narratives.
American Academy of Religion, Modern Language Association, Society of Literature and Religion (member of executive committee), Multi-Ethnic Literatures of the United States.
University of Kentucky Provost Award for outstanding teaching, 2004; Ochillo Prize, Southern Conference on Afro-American Studies, for article "How Saul Became Paul: Early African-American Conversion."
Hell without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative, with foreword by Stephen W. Angell and Anthony Pinn, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2005.
Contributor to The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth Century Women's Literature, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 2001. Contributor to periodicals, including Southern Literary Journal and ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews. Coeditor, North Star: A Journal of African American Religious History.
Yolanda Pierce is the Elmer G. Homrighausen Associate Professor of African American Religion and Literature at the Princeton Theological Seminary. She teaches classes in African American religious history, womanist theology, and literature and religion. She was formerly an assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. In 2001-02, she served as Womanist Scholar at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia, where she taught the class "We Have Been Believers: Black Religion and Black Literature." Pierce has also written about slave narratives for the Southern Literary Journal and The Cambridge Companion to Nineteenth Century Women's Literature.
In her book Hell without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative, Pierce examines several narratives in which slaves detail their conversion to Christianity. Writings by the antebellum writers George White, John Jea, David Smith, Solomon Bayley, and Zilpha Elaw are examined. According to a statement posted on the University Press of Florida Web site: "Hell Without Fires examines the spiritual and earthly results of conversion to Christianity for African American antebellum writers. Using autobiographical narratives, the book shows how black writers transformed the earthly hell of slavery into a ‘New Jerusalem,’ a place they could call home." Pierce believes that these conversions had "far-reaching community effects," as she writes in the book. Slaves found in Christianity a hope for a better life. Many converts were inspired to become literate so as to be able to read the Bible. Others were called to the ministry and became active in antislave resistance. Black slaves transformed Christianity into a liberatory religion for their people. "Pierce analyzes each of the conversion narratives," wrote John B. Boles in Biography, "in fresh, revealing ways, and scholars should be motivated to reread the original accounts—and others like them—afresh." According to Nancy A. Hardesty in the Journal of Southern History, "Pierce packs a wealth of information in this small book. It is a model more writers should emulate."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Literary History, Volume 19, number 1, 2007, Lawrence Buell, review of Hell without Fires: Slavery, Christianity, and the Antebellum Spiritual Narrative, pp. 32-55.
Biography, fall, 2005, John B. Boles, review of Hell without Fires, p. 696.
Interpretation, October, 2007, Angela D. Sims, review of Hell without Fires, p. 458.
Journal of Southern History, August, 2006, Nancy A. Hardesty, review of Hell without Fires, p. 666.
Religious Studies Review, January, 2006, Julia Huston Nguyen, review of Hell without Fires, p. 56.
Interdenominational Theological Center Web site,http://www.itc.edu/ (June 13, 2008), "2001-2002 Womanist Scholar—Dr. Yolanda Pierce, Ph.D."
Princeton Theological Seminary Web site,http://www.ptsem.edu/ (May 28, 2008), biography of Pierce.
University Press of Florida Web site,http://www.upf.com/ (June 13, 2008), overview of Hell without Fires.