Highly respected scholar and researcher Dr. Riggins Earl will serve as a visiting professor at American Baptist College this fall. Earl will teach a master class on the life of the late Rev. C. T. Vivian, a staunch Civil Rights activist, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient, and ABC alumnus who passed away July 17.

Earl is a professor of Ethics and Theology at the Interdenominational Theological Center of the Atlanta University Center, where he has served for 30- plus years. He holds a Ph. D. degree in social ethics from Vanderbilt University, and has done post-doctoral studies at Harvard and Boston universities. Throughout his career, he has been at the forefront of intellectual conversations about religion, the ethics, and morality, particularly as they relate to African- Americans. 

“I look forward to teaching this course on such a strong disciple of voicing people’s rights,” said Earl. “Rev. Vivian was a bold agent of social change and continued to preach and teach that perspective of making change in the world.” 

“Dr. Earl’s expertise in ethics and theology, along with his years of being involved in intellectual thought regarding the moral fiber of society as it impacts Black people, makes him an outstanding selection to teach on the life of Rev. Vivian, whom he knew quite well,” said American Baptist College President Dr. Forrest Harris. 

Rev. Vivian was born in Boonville, Mo., on July 30, 1924. After graduating high school, he attended Western Illinois University, eventually enrolling at American Baptist College in 1957 to study ministry. He also served as an instructor at ABC, along with Rev. James Lawson. 

In a nation trying to come to grips with racial inequality in the 1960s, Rev. Vivian was a symbol of nonviolence on the front lines of bloody confrontations. He led passive protesters through shrieking white mobs and, with discipline and endurance, absorbed the blows of segregationists and complicit law enforcement officials across the South, as reported in the New York Times. 

Dr. Earl has earned several national research awards and has written numerous articles and published two major volumes on the subject of Black religion and ethics: Dark Symbols, Obscure Signs: God, Self, and Community in the Slave Mind (1993); and Dark Salutations: Greetings, Ritual, and God in Black America (2001). Earl has just finished a book manuscript on The Jesus-Crisis in Black Consciousness: The Enslavement and Colonization Challenge. 

Professor Earl also is an ordained Christian clergyman (Baptist), teaching and preaching the gospel to meet the needs of the whole person. He does this by building communication bridges between the Black church and the academy. 

American Baptist College is a 96-year old HBCU institution, located in north Nashville. The College offers two associate degrees in General Education and Music and Arts. It also offers three bachelor degrees, including Bible and Theology, Behavioral Studies, Entrepreneurial Leadership. 

For more information about ABC or the course, please contact Dr. Phyllis Qualls at pqualls@abcnash.edu or 615.498.4681.