Pitzer College unveils one of a kind course on African-American humanism

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is pleased to announce that its secular studies endowment to Pitzer College is being tapped this spring to offer a one-of-a-kind course on African American humanism.

A year after FFRF’s funding of a $300,000 secular studies endowment at Pitzer College, Sikivu Hutchinson has been appointed an adjunct professor there. Hutchinson, who was named FFRF’s Freethought Heroine at its 2021 national convention, will be the first Black woman to teach a course on African American humanism.

Hutchinson, Ph.D. is an educator, author, playwright and director and is the author of several books, including Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars, Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels, Humanists in the Hood: Unapologetically Black, Feminist, and Heretical. She is a contributing editor for The Feminist Wire and the founder of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and the Women’s Leadership Project, a feminist mentoring program for girls of color in South L.A.

Pitzer College, which is part of the Claremont Colleges, was the first college in the United States to inaugurate a Secular Studies program in 2011. Annually, more than 200 students take a secular studies course there. Initiated by Professor of Sociology and Secular Studies Phil Zuckerman, the program has six affiliated faculty members representing the fields of history, philosophy, religion, science, and sociology. Course offerings include “Sociology of Secularity,” “God, Darwin and Design in America,” “Fundamentalism and Rationalism” and “Anxiety in the Age of Reason.” Zuckerman is thrilled about Hutchinson joining the program.

The course description notes: “Despite strong traditions of religiosity in African American communities, Black secular humanist, freethought and atheist views have always coexisted with Black faith. Historically, Black humanists have grounded their beliefs in an anti-racist social justice critique that was distinct from that of European American secular humanists.” 

The description adds: “This course will focus on how these traditions shaped Black liberation, resistance, intellectualism, and creativity. It will explore nineteenth-century slavery-era critiques of organized religion from thinkers like Frederick Douglass and Fannie Barrier Williams; discuss literary portrayals of skepticism by twentieth-century writers and artists such as Zora Neale Hurston, Lorraine Hansberry, Richard Wright, James Baldwin, Nella Larsen, Alice Walker and Octavia Butler; and examine contemporary 21st-century secular humanist, freethought and atheist activism, scholarship, art and social media among educators, writers, bloggers, and organizations who are challenging the dominance of religious faith in communities of color.”

“We are so thrilled to have Professor Hutchinson here at Pitzer College, embellishing our Secular Studies curriculum. Not only is she one of the sharpest minds out there, but her community activism and commitment to social justice are right in line with Pitzer’s values and ethos. And her course on African American Humanism is so welcomed and needed.”

The $300,000 gift was made possible thanks to a bequest by FFRF member and ardent atheist Kenneth L. Proulx, that is meant to help the Secular Studies program fulfill its mission to increase understanding of — and disseminate knowledge about — secularism, atheism, agnosticism, humanism, naturalism and freethought in societies and cultures, past and present. 

“FFRF is excited about the success of Pitzer’s secular studies program, and the addition of this course this spring to acknowledge and disseminate the views of secular, Black, feminist voices,” says FFRF Co-president Annie Laurie Gaylor. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members and several chapters across the country. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Pitzer College is a top-ranked liberal arts and sciences college located in Claremont, Calif. Its Secular Studies program is an interdisciplinary program focusing on manifestations of the secular in societies and cultures, past and present.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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