PHS and Union seminaries honor a womanist theologian’s creative legacy

Fred Tangeman | Office of the General Assembly – October 18, 2023

Last Thursday night, the Presbyterian Historical Society celebrated the completion of the Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon Digital Collection, a collaborative effort among PHS, The Katie Geneva Cannon Center for Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary and The Burke Library at Union Theological Seminary (Columbia University Libraries).

Coinciding with the fall PHS board meeting, the event saw friends of the society mixing with PHS staff, seminary leaders from Richmond and New York City and members of the Cannon family. After outdoor food and refreshments, attendees gathered inside for a speaker’s program.

Work on The Katie Geneva Cannon Digital Collection began in 2021 and includes personal records distributed among PHS, Union Theological Seminary and Union Presbyterian Seminary.

Cannon, who died in 2018, was the first African American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) and to earn a PhD from Union Theological Seminary. Her creative output as a womanist theologian and educator can now be experienced online by researchers, including nearly 500 sermons (many accessible as audio files), draft writings, poems and works of visual art.

“Free people free people,” the Rev. Shavon Starling-Louis, Co-Moderator of the 225th General Assembly (2022), said of Cannon and her legacy during the event. “Dr. Cannon was one of the freest people I have ever witnessed in spirit. Through this collection she is genuinely continuing to free other people to be their best selves.”

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