Dr. Jonathan L. Chism is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Houston-Downtown in the History, Humanities, and Languages Department. He received his PhD from Rice University in 2014. He also received a Master of Arts from Rice University in 2012, a Master of Divinity degree from Southern Methodist University, Perkins School of Theology in 2008, and a Bachelor of Arts from Rice University in 2004.
A historian of African American religion, Chism’s research explores the intersection between religion, race, disability, 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. Chism is the co-editor of Critical Race Studies Across Disciplines: Resisting Racism through Scholactivism, with Lexington Books (2021). His first book, Saints in the Struggle (2019), provides a critical history of Church of God in Christ (COGIC) members’ engagements in the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee. He is also the author of 30 Day Journey with Martin Luther King Jr., published with Fortress Press (2019) and a contributing author of Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop-A Basic Guide to (2014). Chism has published journal articles with Pneuma, Journal of Disability and Religion, and the Religious Studies Review.
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. He currently has two books under contract, including: Black Religion in America: An Introduction with Routledge Press and an edited volume on the Prophetic Activism of Reverend Jeremiah Wright with Lexington Books.
In addition to his academic pursuits and commitments, Chism is also an ordained minister and a community organizer. He is the cofounder of the Autism Dads Social Club, a brotherhood of dads who parent autistic children. The club galvanizes dads of autistic children so as to affirm, aid, and advocate for autistic children and youth. We aim to deepen autism family relationships and connections within the autism community. The club has organized numerous meetups for dads as well as social events for families with autistic children to support and love each other. The club is an affiliate of the Autism Society of Texas.
Prior to his academic appointment, he founded and directed the Path to Freedom at St. John’s Downtown Church in Houston, Texas from 2008 to 2014. 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. The ministry remains active and impactful under the leadership of Danny Sneed, an activist who joined the Path to Freedom during Chism’s tenure.
Chism is married to Dr. Courtney Miller-Chism, a hematologist oncologist. They are the proud parents of Jonathan Jr. and Jasmine.