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Albert J. Raboteau

Professor Albert J. Raboteau (September 4, 1943 – September 18, 2021) was an African American scholar of African and African American religions. He is one of the nation's foremost authorities on African-American religious history, and the Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion. He came to Princeton University as a visiting professor in 1982 and joined the faculty a year later. He chaired the Department of Religion from 1987 to 1992 and served as dean of the Graduate School in 1992–93.

Professor Raboteau is a convert to the Orthodox Church, and helped found the Mother of God, Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church (OCA), which is attended by several Princeton students and other community members.


Before Raboteau was born, his father was killed by a white man who was never convicted of the crime.[1] His mother moved from the Southern United States where she was a teacher, and moved to find a better place for her children.[1] She remarried to an African American priest, who was one of the early black priests in the Roman Catholic Church; however his stepfather left the church due to perceived racism and became a teacher of classics.

Raboteau's stepfather taught him Latin and Greek starting at five years old, and also helped him focus on church and education. He was accepted into college at the age of sixteen. He entered the Yale Graduate Program in Religious Studies, where he studied with American religious historian Sydney Ahlstrom and African American historian John Blassingame.

Raboteau's dissertation, later revised and published as the book Slave Religion: The "Invisible Institution" in the Antebellum South, was published just as the black studies movement was gaining steam in the 1970s and in the wake of revolutionary scholarship on American slavery: Olli Alho's The Religion of Slaves (1976), Blassingame's Slave Community (1972) and Slave Testimony (1977), Eugene Genovese's Roll, Jordan, Roll (1974), and Lawrence Levine's Black Culture and Black Consciousness (1977).[2]

In 1982 Princeton University hired Raboteau, first as a visiting professor and then as full-time faculty. He is currently (2009) Henry W. Putnam Professor of Religion. His research and teaching focus on American Catholic history, African American religions, and religion and immigration issues. He chaired the Department of Religion (1987-1992) and also served as dean of the Graduate School (1992-1993).

He received the Lifetime Service Award (Journey Award) in both 2005 and 2006. In 2005, he also received the special Achievement Award (Journey Award).


  • Slave Religion: The Invisible Institution in the Antebellum South. New York: Oxford University Press, 1978. ISBN 0195024389.
  • A Fire in the Bones: Reflections on African-American Religious History. Boston: Beacon Press, 1995. ISBN 0807009326.
  • A Sorrowful Joy. New York: Paulist Press, 2002. ISBN 0809140934.
  • Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0195145852.
  • African American Religion: Interpretive Essays in History and Culture. New York: Routledge, 1997. ISBN 0415914582. Co-edited with Timothy E. Fulop.

See also

African Americans and Orthodox Christianity


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Albert Jordy Raboteau, Jr." Retrieved 01.12.2008.
  2. Raboteau, "Afterword," Slave Religion, updated ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004).

External links