Philander Smith, Hendrix Present “Faith in Black and White” Series on Church & Race

Arkansas United Methodist colleges collaborate on public programs on race, ethnicity, and religion.

Little Rock, Ark. (December 14, 2016) – Hendrix College and Philander Smith College will co-host “Faith in Black and White: The Church and Race in ‘Colorblind’ America,” a public speaker series to explore the systems of racial injustice in contemporary American culture and the role of the Church in creating a more racially just society.

All events in the series are free and open to the public.

Speakers will explore the ways that churches have both supported and struggled against systems of racial injustice and will try to point a way forward for the Church in the effort to bring about a more racially just society. The series will bring together an interracial audience of Hendrix and Philander Smith students, as well as pastors and church members from central Arkansas congregations.

The Hon. Wendell Griffen of Little Rock, Circuit Judge of the Fifth Division, Sixth Judicial District and pastor of New Millennium Baptist Church, will kick off the series with “The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Citizenship,” a public lecture on Monday, Jan. 16, at 7 p.m., at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church on the Philander Smith College campus. Griffen is a U.S. Army veteran and a University of Arkansas School of Law graduate. He was the first person of color to become an associate and later a partner in a major Arkansas law firm (Wright, Lindsey, and Jennings in Little Rock). He served as Arkansas Workers' Compensation Commission chairman, Arkansas Court of Appeals judge, and University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law Visiting Professor before being elected to his current post. 

Rev. Dr. F. Willis Johnson, senior minister of Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri, will speak on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 7 p.m., in Mills A in the Mills Social Sciences Center at Hendrix College. Johnson gained national attention for his leadership in his community’s response to the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed African American teenager. He has been featured numerous times on NPR, and his work has appeared in Time Magazine and The Christian Century, among many others. His most recent book is Holding up Your Corner: Talking about Race in Your Community.

Temple University professor Dr. Nyasha Junior will present “The Bible in Black and White” on Tuesday, March 14, at 7 p.m., in the Kendall Nugent building at Philander Smith College. Her work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, and religion, in particular through her Womanist approach to biblical interpretation. Junior is most recently the author of An Introduction to Womanist Biblical Interpretation and is currently working on a volume on the afterlives of Hagar for Oxford University Press.

Dr. Emilie Townes, Dean and Carpenter Professor of Womanist Ethics and Society at the Vanderbilt University Divinity School, will present “(In)Justice” on Wednesday, April 5, at 7 p.m., in Mills A in the Mills Social Sciences Center at Hendrix.            An American Baptist clergywoman, Dr. Townes is one of the world’s foremost scholars of Womanist ethics. She is the first African American to serve as Dean of the Vanderbilt University Divinity School and is the author of the groundbreaking work Womanist Ethics and the Cultural Production of Evil. She holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a Ph.D. in Religion in Society and Personality from Northwestern University. 

The speaker series is underwritten by the Margaret Berry Hutton Odyssey Professorship at Hendrix College, which is currently held by psychology professor Dr. Leslie Zorwick and religious studies professor Dr. Robert Williamson, director of the Hendrix Miller Center for Vocation, Ethics, and Calling.

For more information, contact Dr. Williamson at or 501-505-1559 or Rev. Ronnie Miller-Yow, Dean of Religious Life and Campus Culture and Chaplain at Philander Smith College, at or 501-370-5344.



About Philander Smith College

Founded in 1877, Philander Smith College is a small, privately supported, historically Black, four-year liberal arts institution related to the Board of Higher Education and Ministry of the United Methodist Church. The College's mission is to graduate academically accomplished students, grounded as advocates for social justice, determined to change the world for the better. Philander Smith College, the only United Negro College Fund member institution in Arkansas, strives to provide a quality education for all regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin or ethnic background. For more information, visit

About Hendrix College

Hendrix College is a private liberal arts college in Conway, Arkansas. Founded in 1876 and affiliated with the United Methodist Church since 1884, Hendrix is featured in Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think about Colleges and is nationally recognized in numerous college guides, lists, and rankings for academic quality, community, innovation, and value. For more information, visit