Dr. Jonathan L. Chism is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Houston-Downtown. He received his PhD from Rice University in 2014. He also received a Master of Arts from Rice University in 2012, a Masters of Divinity degree from Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in 2008, and a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University in 2004. Chism specializes in African American Religious History. His research explores the intersection between religion, race, and politics and seeks to enhance understanding of diverse ways African American religious groups and figures have pursued social justice and transformation in the twentieth century.
His forthcoming book, Saints in the Struggle, provides a critical history of Church of God in Christ (COGIC) members’ engagements in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee. Chism is interested in continuing to explore how African American religious groups have endeavored to contribute to struggles for social justice, including the rights of disabled African Americans as well as persons entangled in the webs of the criminal justice system.
In addition to his academic pursuits and commitments, Chism is also an ordained minister. Prior to his academic appointment, he founded and directed the Path to Freedom at St. John’s Downtown Church in Houston, Texas. As leader of the Path to Freedom, Chism organized several programs for men and women released from prison and for their families, including Freedom Events for ex-prisoners, Legal Forums, Back to School Drives for Children with Incarcerated Parents, Youth Achievement Award Banquets, and Toy Drives for Children with an Incarcerated Parent. While at St. John’s Downtown, he also founded the Lazarus Project, a community-based support group that helps returning citizens reintegrate into society.
Chism is married to Dr. Courtney Miller-Chism, a hematologist oncologist. They are the proud parents of Jonathan Jr. and Jasmine.