Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is a lecturer in the American Culture Studies Program and a Curator of Popular American Arts for Olin Library at Washington University in St. Louis. His interests in teaching and research analyze the convergence of sacred and secular thought and their influence on social movements and popular culture, particularly within the African American Experience in the twentieth century.
Mitchell is the Curator of Popular American Art and Culture at Washington University in St. Louis in the Julian Edison Department of Special Collections. Aside from his appointment in the University Libraries, he also teaches courses on race, media, and social movements in the Program for American Culture Studies. His courses employ an interdisciplinary perspective that reflect his varied interests in history, literature, music, and art. Mitchell has lectured extensively outside the academy, from jazz clubs to community centers. His public lectures have focused on music and popular culture, covering everything from jazz icon, Max Roach’s classic album, The Freedom Now Suite, to hip-hop legend Jay-Z’s more recent 2018 Grammy nominated, 4:44.
Mitchell earned his Ph.D. in American History (focused on African-American political and religious thought) from Cornell University. Prior to his position at Washington University, he served as Visiting Affiliate Fellow at the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University. Currently, Mitchell is working on several projects, most notably his forthcoming book Jazz Age Jesus: The Reverend Adam Clayton Powell, Sr., and the Ministry of Black Empowerment, which is a culmination of his doctoral work. Mitchell argues that the Rev. Powell’s ministry was an important and understudied catalyst for the cultural movement known as the Harlem Renaissance and played in integral role in the larger New Negro Movement of the early decades of the twentieth century.