Lerone A. Martin

Associate Professor of Religion and Politics

I am a historian of religion in the twentieth century U.S., with a particular interest in the intersection of religion and politics. I am especially interested in the relationship between various forms of American religious media and notions of race, socio-economics, gender, citizenship, and nationhood. 

Lerone A. Martin is Associate Professor in Religion and Politics at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics. He will also serve as Director of the American Culture Studies program 2020-2023.

Martin is the author of the award-winning Preaching on Wax: The Phonograph and the Making of Modern African American Religion (New York University Press, 2014), which tracks the role of the phonograph in the shaping of African American religion, culture, and politics during the first half of the twentieth century. The book was the 2015 recipient of the prestigious Frank S. and Elizabeth D. Brewer Prize for outstanding scholarship in religious history by a first-time author from the American Society of Church History.

In support of his research, Martin has received a number of nationally recognized fellowships, including the National Endowment for the Humanities, The American Council of Learned Societies, The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, and the Louisville Institute for the Study of American Religion.

Martin has also been recognized for his teaching, receiving grants and fellowships from the Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religion. In 2019, the students in the College of Arts and Science at Washington University in St. Louis awarded him the ArtSci Excellence in Teaching Award in Humanities.

Martin earned his B.A. from Anderson University and his Master of Divinity Degree from Princeton Theological Seminary before completing his Ph.D. at Emory University in 2011. Martin joined the Center’s faculty in 2014 as Assistant Professor after a postdoctoral fellowship with the Center. From 2010-2013, Martin was the Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary.

Martin has served as a research consultant for continuing education and recidivism at New York’s Sing Sing State Prison, as well as an instructor at Georgia’s Metro State Prison. Currently he is an instructor at the Missouri Eastern Correctional Center. His commentary and writing have appeared in popular media outlets including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and CNN.

He is writing a book on the relationship between religion, the FBI, and national security in American history to be published by Princeton University Press.

Professor Martin is available for speaking engagements. For more information please contact: The Lyceum Agency at lyceum@lyceumagency.com or 1530 SE 30th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214.

Sample Courses

  • L57 RelPol 410

    The FBI and Religion

    This course examines the relationship between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and religion as a way to study and understand twentieth century religion and politics specifically and the American experiment in democracy more broadly. Students will investigate the history of the FBI, as well as the various ways in which the FBI and religious groups have interacted with particular attention to the “modes” of FBI-religious engagement.

  • L57 RelPol 385

    Jesus, Jazz, and Gin: the 1920s and the History of Our Current Times

    This course is a historical survey of the dynamic relationship between religion and politics during the 1920s.




  • Preaching on Wax 

    The Phonograph and the Shaping of Modern African American Religion

  • America’s Bishop: J. Edgar Hoover and the Shaping of American Religion

    (Under contract with Princeton University Press)

Lerone A. Martin in the News