“Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”: The Role of Spirituality in African American Environmental Activism in the US South

Post-Workshop Symposium, January 2019

Organised by Ellen Kohl (Environmental Studies, St. Mary’s College of Maryland) and Priscilla McCutcheon (Department of Geography, University of Kentucky)

We are pleased to present here seven essays from participants of “Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters”: The Role of Spirituality in African American Environmental Activism in the US South, an Antipode Foundation-supported workshop that took place at the University of Louisville in Louisville, Kentucky, in April 2018.

We think they make a fine collection–a fitting testimony to the value of the workshop, and a provocative intervention in discussions ongoing in and around the journal on race, environmental activism, and spirituality. Many thanks to Ellen and Priscilla for all their work organising both the workshop and this symposium.

Andy Kent
Secretary, The Antipode Foundation
May 2019


Divinely Inspired Spaces and African American Environmentalism
Priscilla McCutcheon and Ellen Kohl

The essays

A Meditation on Justice: Amos 5:24
Reverend Cassandra A. Henderson

Scales of Reckoning and Reference
Garrett Graddy-Lovelace

“Peace be Still:” Rediscovering My Spirit through Agrarian Fieldwork
Priscilla McCutcheon

Writing Religion Out: Faith and Environmental Justice in Critical Geographies
Ellen Kohl

The Spiritual Foundations of Environmental (In)Justice
Emma DeVries

Give Mother Nature Space in the Movement
Rev Dele

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***The conference website is now live***


“Let justice roll down like waters”: The Role of Spirituality in African American Environmental Activism in the U.S. South brings together activists, spiritual leaders, and academics to explore the intersections of race, environmental activism and spirituality. From the times of slavery through the Civil Rights movement, spirituality has played a critical role in the radical activism of African Americans in the U.S. At the same time, spirituality has remained an understudied component of environmental activism. Through this conference, we intend to explore the role of spirituality among African Americans in environmental activism, and in the process, expand our understanding of environmental activism.

The conference will begin with an opening reception followed by a panel sessions where academics, activist, and spiritual leaders will explore the core questions:

How does spirituality influence African American involvement in environmental activism?

What specific spiritual expressions do we see in African American environmentalism?

How do African Americans spiritual engagement with the environment helps us to expand our definition of spirituality more broadly?

How does an engagement with spirituality expand our understanding of what activism is?

The panel session will be open to the public. The second day of the conference will build on the themes introduced in the opening panel. It will be devoted to idea sharing, paper presenting, and collaborative learning, including sermans, op-eds, think pieces, academic writings, and other form of expression prepared in advance by conference participants. We will also have plenty opportunities for people to share best practices and vision for the future. The conference will conclude with a vision session for the future where both academic goals and community based goals will be discussed. The conference is organized around regional clusters to help to facilitate work beyond the conference.

Opening Reception: 5:00 pm – 6:00 pm; Plenary: 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm; Thursday, March 1st, 2018; Ekstrom Library Chao Auditorium at the University of Louisville.


Dr Ihsan Bagby is an associate professor of Islamic Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Kentucky. His research for the past ten years has focused on Muslims in America.

Cassandra Henderson is a licensed and ordained minister, visual and performance-based artist, activist, scholar, community organizer, and entrepreneur. She is currently the Pastor for BTKids + Student Ministries at The Breakthrough Fellowship in Smyrna, GA.

Dr Brandon McCormack is an assistant professor in the University of Louisville’s Department of Pan-African Studies. His research interests focus on the intersections of Black Religion and Cultural Studies.

Cassia Herron is the Research Manager for the Transdisciplinary Social Justice Research Consortium. She is a community development professional and advocate with over ten years of experience.


Dr. Priscilla McCutcheon is an Assistant Professor at the University of Louisville with joint appointments in Pan African Studies and Geography/Geosciences. Her research broadly focuses on the intersection of race, food/agriculture, and space. She is currently working on an archival project on Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farms.

Dr. Ellen Kohl earned her Ph.D in geography from the University of Georgia. Her research focuses on how intersecting forms of oppression affect the human-environment interactions and how knowledge is produced in the science-policy interface. Dr. Kohl is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies of St. Mary’s College of Maryland.

Tanisha Stanford is a graduate student at the University of Louisville in Georgia. Her thesis is centered on exploring the socio-psychological experiences of the African American grandmothers as critical members of the black family.


As well as the Antipode Foundation, the conference is supported by St. Mary’s College of Maryland Environmental Studies Program (ENST) and University of Louisville Pan- African Studies.

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