This working paper results from our project Spiritual Care Provider Networks, supported by the Fetzer Institute.

Citation: Antoine, Aja, Barbara Savage, and Wendy Cadge. 2021. “Black Chaplains in the United States, 1940-2021: The Role of Race and the Work of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care.” Chaplaincy Innovation Lab.


Black chaplains in the U.S. do significant work in a variety of settings. This paper describes the work of Black chaplains historically and in the present. Today, chaplains primarily support the spiritual, mental, and emotional health of people in the institutions they serve. Black Americans are overrepresented in prisons and in some branches of the military; available evidence suggests that Black chaplains are and have been underrepresented in these
settings. Historical newspapers and interviews with current Black chaplains show their commitment to spiritual care long has been entwined with political struggles against the racial realities of their workplaces. This was true in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and remains true, in different ways, today. Starting at the gallows and on the fields of war, the presence, and actions of Black chaplains parallel, converge, and diverge from patterns laid out in the normalizing studies of white chaplains. We begin to document these realities in this paper and lay out a preliminary research agenda. We recommend that individuals and institutions name, address, and respond to historically grounded racial inequities in the work of Black chaplains and other chaplains of color.


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See our growing bibliography of working papers here. Our working papers are meant to stimulate discussion and advance both academic and applied conversations in the field of spiritual care.

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