Albert Raboteau, an “imposing figure” in African-American religious history and a “gentle giant in the life of the spirit and the spirit”, dies at 78

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Albert Raboteau Jr., Professor Henry W. Putnam of Religion, emeritus, died peacefully at his home in Princeton on September 18 following a years-long battle with Lewy body dementia. He was 78 years old.

Raboteau joined Princeton faculty in 1982 and earned emeritus status in 2013. His research and teaching has focused on African-American religious history, African-American studies, and American religious history. He was chairman of the Department of Religions from 1987 to 1992 and dean of the High school from 1992-93.

During his 30 years at Princeton, Raboteau was a beloved teacher, advisor and mentor to many undergraduate and graduate students, some of whom would later become his colleagues.

“Al Raboteau was a dominant figure in the fields of African American religious history, African American studies and American religious history,” said Judith Weisenfeld, religion professor Agate Brown and George L. Collord, president from the Department of Religion and Graduated in 1992. “I was fortunate to be his student, to have him as a thesis supervisor when I was a graduate student at Princeton, and to be his colleague when I came back to school. faculty years later. ”

She added, “It is impossible to explain everything I learned from him about the field of black religious studies, and it was a huge privilege to know him as a thinker, teacher, scholar and person. He was a deeply kind man, whose calm manners attracted the attention of those around him, and a brilliant person in mind and spirit.

“Professor Raboteau taught me so much: how to navigate the archives, how to trust and be comfortable with my questions, and how to write clearly and with sophistication. Most importantly, Al taught me to walk humbly with confidence, ”said Eddie Glaude Jr., James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor, professor and chair of the African American studies department, director of the African studies program -american and a 1997 alumnus. “His genius knew no boundaries. His work helped to create a whole field, and he was able to evolve just as easily in the fields of literature and cinema.

A generous and caring mentor, Raboteau was always ready to help his students. When Glaude was a graduate student, an editor from the University of Chicago Press came to campus to get an idea of ​​Raboteau’s next book project. Rather than answering the editor’s questions, Raboteau spoke to the editor about Glaude’s thesis and arranged for a meeting between Glaude and the editor, who ended up publishing Glaude’s first book.

In 1998, Raboteau received the Howard T. Behrman Prize, Princeton’s highest honor for distinguished achievement in the humanities. He was again honored by the University in 2006 with the Martin Luther King Day Journey Award for Lifetime Service in recognition of his work in advancing King’s dream for America.

Raboteau was a founding member of the Center for the Study of American Religion, which later became the Center for the Study of Religion and is now the Center for Culture, Society and Religion.

He was also active in the development of Princeton’s African American Studies program, which became the Center for African American Studies and is now the Department of African American Studies.

“My dear brother Al Raboteau was the godfather of African-American religious studies,” said Cornel West, class professor of 1943 at the Center for African American Studies, emeritus. “He was also one of the few great prophetic voices in Princeton College. He was a gentle and gentle giant in the life of spirit and spirit.

Raboteau was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, in 1943. He grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Pasadena, California, and entered Loyola Marymount University at the age of 16. He received a master’s degree from Marquette University and the University of California-Berkeley, and a doctorate. from Yale University. Prior to joining Princeton Faculty, Raboteau taught at Xavier University, Yale University, and the University of California-Berkeley.

He is the author of “Slave Religion: The ‘Invisible Institution’ in the Antebellum South”, “Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African American Religious History”, “Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans”, “A Sorrowful Joy: An African American Man’s Spiritual Journey to Late Twentieth Century America ”and“ The American Prophets: Seven Religious Radicals and Their Struggle for Social Justice. ”He has co-edited two volumes,“ African American Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture ”, with Timothy E. Fulop, and“ Immigration and Religion in America: Comparative and Historical Perspectives ”, with Richard Alba and Josh DeWind.

Raboteau, who was raised in Catholicism and converted to the Orthodox Church later in his life, taught many aspects of African American religious history and culture, bringing literature to his students, music and art as vital sources for engaging in this history. Her other courses have explored religion and social activism, Catholicism in America, and the religious dimensions of contemporary fiction.

During his career, Raboteau has received numerous awards, including four honorary doctorates and scholarships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Raboteau was predeceased by his father, Albert Jordy Raboteau; his mother, Mabel Ishem Raboteau; her stepfather, Royal Woods; and her sisters, Alice Warren and Marlene Raboteau.

Raboteau is survived by his wife, Joanne Shima; four children, Albert, Emily, Charles and Martin; two stepchildren, Jane and Annie; daughters-in-law Jane and Cara; son-in-law Victor; former wife Katherine; and seven grandchildren.

A visit will be held on Thursday, September 23 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Mother of God Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, 904 Cherry Hill Road, in Princeton, New Jersey. The burial service will be held in the same church at 10 a.m. on Friday, September 24. The ceremony is open to supporters and will also be broadcast continuously. in line. Interment will follow at the Highland Cemetery, 95 Hopewell-Wertsville Road, in Hopewell, New Jersey. Participants in person at all events are requested to wear masks taking into account the health of all in attendance.

In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to Arm in Arm, formerly known as The Crisis Ministry, in Trenton, New Jersey, which can be contacted at arminarm.org or (609) 396-9355.


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