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University of Colorado Denver College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Faculty & Staff Directory

Rachel E. Harding, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Indigenous Spiritual Traditions

Email: Rachel Harding
Office Location: 1380 Lawrence Street, 480
Phone: (303) 315-3615
Fax: (303) 315-3610
Office hours: Thursday 1-3pm or by appt.
Areas of Expertise:
Afro-Atlantic History/Religions of the Afro-Atlantic Diaspora​

Education & Degrees

Ph.D., History, University of Colorado
M.F.A., English/Creative Writing, Brown University
B.A., Religious Studies, Brown University


I am an historian and writer specializing in religious traditions of the Afro-Atlantic diaspora and the intersections of faith, culture and activism in contemporary social justice movements. I hold a Ph.D. in history, an MFA in creative writing, and am author of numerous published essays and a book on Afro-Brazilian religion, A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness (Indiana Univ. Press, 2000). I served as a consultant and featured scholar in the PBS series “This Far By Faith” on African American religion. I am also a poet and have published work in Callaloo, Chelsea, Feminist Studies, The International Review of African American Art, Hambone, and in several anthologies.

My research centers around the history of Afro-Atlantic religions – particularly Candomblé in Brazil and African American Southern Folk Christianity. Published essays explore the significance of Black Spirituals in the larger context of Afro-Atlantic religion; orientations to history among contemporary female devotees of Candomblé; and Southern African American folk spirituality.

Currently, my work revolves around three primary explorations: 1) African American indigeneity and modernity; 2) Meanings of embodied knowledge and women’s agency in contemporary Afro-Brazilian Candomblé, and 3) African American women’s mysticism as a resource of struggle in the Southern Freedom Movement (Civil Rights Movement).

Select Publications

“Remnants: Mothering: A Reflection on Activist-Scholarship and Spirituality in an African American Life” in Keeping the Light: Third Wave Feminist Teaching and Activism eds. Melanie Harris and Kate Ott (forthcoming, Palgrave McMillan 2011)

“É a Senzala: Slavery, Women and Embodied Knowledge in Afro-Brazilian Candomblé,” in Women and Religion in the African Diaspora, eds. Barbara Savage and R. Marie Griffith, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006

“Hospitality, Haints and Healing: A Southern African American Meaning of Religion,” with Rosemarie Freeney Harding, in Deeper Shades of Purple: Womanism in Religion and Society, ed. Stacey M. Floyd-Thomas, New York: NYU Press, 2006

“Candomblé,” in The Encyclopedia of African American Culture and History: The Black Experience in the Americas, ed. Colin Palmer, Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale, 2005

“Afro-Brazilian Religions,” in The Encyclopedia of Religion, 2nd edition, ed. Lindsey Jones, Farmington Hills, MI: Thompson Gale, 2004

“Radical Hospitality: How Kitchen Table Lessons in Welcome and Respect Helped Sustain the Black Freedom Movement," with Rosemarie Freeney Harding in Sojourners Magazine, July/August 2003

“Lessons of Life, Lessons of Candomblé”, translation of original essay by Valdina Oliveira Pinto, in Sing, Whisper, Shout, Pray: Feminist Visions of a Just World, eds. Jacqui Alexander, Lisa Albrecht, Sharon Day and Mab Segrest, Berkeley: EdgeWork Books, 2003

“’What Part of the River You’re In’: African American Women in Devotion to Oshun” in Osun Across the Waters: A Yoruba Goddess in Africa and the Americas, eds. Joseph Murphy and Mei Mei Sanford, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001

A Refuge in Thunder: Candomblé and Alternative Spaces of Blackness, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2000

Courses Taught

ETST 2155-002: African American History

ETST 3110: Indigenous Studies

ETST 3794: Ethnic Diversity in American Literature