Permanently Withdrawn: Examining the Histories, Identities, and Representations of Black Nones in the U.S

deadline for submissions: 
December 16, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Jerry Rafiki Jenkins/Palomar College
contact email: 

A growing percentage of the American population is leaving the church and opting to let go of religious and spiritual frameworks to find social and personal meaning and even economic success, and this is true for African Americans who would have had no other option than to be “churched.” This development is noteworthy because much of what it means to be “black” in the United States, at least from a Western standpoint, is immersed in religious or spiritual frameworks that claim that people of African descent are inherently religious or spiritual. To be sure, it is often assumed that being religious is synonymous (ontologically) with being black and African. This essentialization of black culture is problematic because there is a growing number of black Americans who have chosen to set religion or spirituality aside, and in some cases, they are doing it openly as a matter of protest. Considering the changing trajectory of religious thought and expression in the United States, there are also many black Americans who have expressed interests in non-Abrahamic frameworks that do not include worshiping a deity such as Humanism, Pantheism, and the nontheist sects of Buddhism and Hinduism. Likewise, the US has seen an increase in organizations that are black and secular (e.g., Black Skeptics, Black Nonbelievers, Black Freethinkers, Black People Beyond Belief, and Affinis Humanity Coalition), and most of these groups have been established and managed by black women, who tend to be one of the most religious demographics in the US. These women have made it possible for those who are without reliance or dependence upon religion or god(s) to say so in public and in private. We believe that this organizational aspect is significant and represents a critical part of the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement that is often overlooked because of the role that Christianity had to play in the Movement’s mission. Consequently, there is an emerging cadre of writers, activists, and scholars who have been associated with these groups and are willing to be seen and heard as black nones or even atheists (e.g., Affinis, Norm Allen, Jamila Bey, Christopher Cameron, Candace Gorham, Sikivu Hutchinson, Anthony Pinn, Mandisa Thomas, Kim Veal, and Ayanna Watson).

We believe that this new wave of black expression is part of a larger social movement in the U.S. where individuals and collectives are unapologetically moving away from traditional religious expression. This collection is a clarion call that the terms for black expression and perhaps for social justice could take on greater depth and meaning for the next generation who may be less likely to embrace or stay loyal to traditional black religious and social frameworks that deny the full expression of their humanity. Thus, in this call for papers, we invite scholars, writers, artists, activists, former and current clergy, health professionals, and anyone interested in examining the identity of black Nones in America to submit abstracts for this collection. Given that some of the greatest cultural icons of America and black America, such as Octavia E. Butler, bell hooks, Langston Hughes, A. Phillip Randolph, Alice Walker, and many others did not stay committed to religious or spiritual frameworks that did not support the full humanity of black people, we seek works that will openly challenge dominant ways of thinking about the relationship between blackness and religiosity. We hope to edit and publish an anthology that will demonstrate that belief in a god is not a requirement for black advancement or for one to be authentically black, since blackness is multi-faceted and constantly evolving. 

Submissions: An abstract (250-500 words) is due December 15, 2022. If the abstract is accepted, the complete paper (3,500–6,500 words) or work of art is due August 1, 2023.  Please include your full name, institutional affiliation, tentative title, and email address (not included in the 250-500 text limit) at the beginning of your file. We ask that you upload your submissions to Black Nones CFP_2022 - Google Drive and that your submissions, depending on the work, follow the guidelines of the MLA 9th edition. Please email any queries to either Jerry Rafiki Jenkins (Rafiki) ( or annalise fonza (