Behind The Research: Nicole Myers Turner Examines the Power of Religion

Written by
Agatha Bordonaro ’04
July 8, 2024

Nicole Myers Turner’s interest in the brazilian martial art of capoeira while in high school set her on a journey of exploration that led to the study of religion.

“I was fascinated by the fact that capoeira was a tradition that was carried from Africa to the Americas and continued to be practiced now, in the 21st century,” says Turner, who began studying how African culture is retained through language and dance in high school and continued as an undergraduate at Haverford College. 

Her research quickly led her to robust archives on the role of religion as not only a vehicle of preservation but also a community builder. This resonated with Turner, as she had been a member of a church committee in her predominantly Black neighborhood of East New York, Brooklyn, that was politically active around voter registration, housing development, and other civil issues.

“I was really curious about how religious spaces and religious ideas could be used to bring about social change and mobilize people to act,” she explains. “Religion is such a force.”

Turner went on to earn her Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania and her M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary. Her current research focuses on African American religious, political, and gender history in the 19th century.