Katie Cannon

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Katie Geneva Cannon (January 3, 1950 – August 8, 2018) was an American Christian theologian and ethicist associated with womanist theology and black theology.[1][2] She was the first African-American woman ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), which occurred in 1974.[3][4]

Early life[edit]

Cannon spent her childhood in Kannapolis, North Carolina, a racially segregated community where she could not use local facilities such as the YMCA, swimming pool or library.[5][6] She was the daughter of the late Esau Cannon and Corine L. Cannon, the first woman to work at the Cannon Mills in Kannapolis. Both her parents were elders in the Presbyterian Church. She had six brothers and sisters.[7]

Education and career[edit]

Cannon graduated with a bachelor of science degree from Barber-Scotia College, followed by a master of divinity from Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary, and master and doctor of philosophy degrees from Union Theological Seminary in New York.[6]

Cannon was ordained on April 24, 1974, in Shelby, North Carolina, by the Catawba Presbytery, in the Synod of Catawba, becoming the first African-American woman to be ordained in the United Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).[6]

Cannon began teaching at Union Presbyterian Seminary in Richmond in 2001. She held the position of the Annie Scales Rogers Professor of Christian Social Ethics. She was the Lilly Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religion at Davidson College and the Sterling Brown Visiting Professor in Religion and African American Studies at Williams College.[6]

In 2012, Cannon began serving as executive director of the Squaring the Womanist Circle Project at Union Presbyterian Seminary. Following from the research results produced by the project, Cannon worked with the administration of Union Presbyterian Seminary and several foundations to establish The Center For Womanist Leadership at Union Presbyterian Seminary.[7] The center is the first of its kind at any theological academic institution in the United States. From 2004 to 2008, she served as president of the Society for the Study of Black Religion.[8]


Cannon received the distinguished professor award from Spelman College, the Lucy Craft Laney Award at the Black Presbyterian Bicentennial Celebration, and was a professor-scholar honoree at the National Black Church Summit at Emory University. She received the Beautiful Are The Feet Award from the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference.[6] The American Academy of Religion honored Cannon with its 2011 Excellence in Teaching Award.[5][9] In 2018, Cannon was honored at the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s General Assembly, receiving the Excellence in Theological Education Award.[6][7]


  • God’s Fierce Whimsy: The Implications of Feminism for Theological Education. Pilgrim Press, 1985[10]
  • Inheriting Our Mothers' Gardens: Feminist Theology in Third World Perspective. Letty M. Russell, Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz, Kwok Pui-lan, and Katie Geneva Cannon, editors. Westminster John Knox Press, 1988. ISBN 9780664250195.
  • Katie's Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community. Continuum, 1998. ISBN 978-0826410344.
  • Black Womanist Ethics, Oxford University Press, 1988[11]
  • Teaching Preaching: Isaac Rufus Clark and Black Sacred Rhetoric. Continuum, 2007. ISBN 978-0826428974.
  • Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader. Katie Geneva Cannon, Emilie M. Townes, and Angela D. Sims, editors. Westminster John Knox Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0664235376.
  • The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology, Oxford University Press, 2014[12]


  1. ^ Copeland, M. Shawn (2007). "Cannon, Katie Geneva". An Introductory Dictionary of Theology and Religious Studies. p. 190.
  2. ^ "Katie Geneva Cannon". Union Presbyterian Seminary. Retrieved December 14, 2012.
  3. ^ "Katie Geneva Cannon | Union Presbyterian Seminary". Union Presbyterian Seminary. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  4. ^ "Dr. Katie Cannon, first black woman ordained in PC (USA), dies at 68 | National Black Presbyterian Caucus (NBPC)". Nationalnbpc.org. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Tina Pippin (2011). "Katie Geneva Cannon to Receive Excellence in Teaching Award". Religious Studies News. American Academy of Religion.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Professor Katie Cannon, first black woman ordained in PC(USA), dies at 68". The Presbyterian Outlook. August 9, 2018. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  7. ^ a b c "Katie Geneva Cannon, groundbreaking womanist ethicist and theologian, dies at age 68". The Christian Century. Retrieved August 11, 2018.
  8. ^ The Crisis. 111. NAACP. 2004. p. 9 https://books.google.com/books?id=nl4pAQAAIAAJ. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  9. ^ "AAR Award for Excellence in Teaching".
  10. ^ Cannon, Katie G.; Mud Flower Collective (1985). God's fierce whimsy : Christian feminism and theological education. Internet Archive. New York : Pilgrim Press.
  11. ^ Cannon, Katie G. (1988). Black Womanist Ethics. AAR Academy Series. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-55540-216-7.
  12. ^ Cannon, Katie G.; Pinn, Anthony B., eds. (August 21, 2014). The Oxford Handbook of African American Theology. Oxford Handbooks. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-975565-3.

External links[edit]