First book in the series, ‘Black Megachurch Culture,’ was authored by former Gary native Sandra Barnes, who is now a professor at Vanderbilt

Academics have always been an important part of life for Rochelle Brock, Ph.D. Brock is currently at Indiana University Northwest, where she fills dual roles as an assistant professor in the School of Education and as the executive director of the school’s Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP).

Now, Brock has taken her academic interests to a new level and is a co-executive editor for a new book series published by Peter Lang Publishing, an international academic publishing house based in Switzerland. Richard Greggory Johnson, III, Ph.D., of the University of Vermont, is also a co-executive editor of the series.

The book series, Black Studies and Critical Thinking, is an interdisciplinary series that examines the intellectual traditions of and cultural contributions made by people of African descent throughout the world.

Brock explained that, although her background is in education, and specifically urban education, the book series is not solely focused on that field of study.

“Education is one of the sub-disciplines within the book series, but we (co-executive editors) also looked for authors in political science, leadership, popular culture, youth development, and other various disciplines, all of whom had a focus on African American culture.”

Currently, the book series has 20 titles under contract, and the first book of the series, Black Megachurch Culture, was published in August.

“This first book is by Sandra Barnes, a professor from Vanderbilt University,” Brock said. “And, her roots tie her to this region. She is a Gary native and went to high school in this area.”

The published book, as stated on Peter Lang’s Web site “identifies how church cultural components are created, developed, and used to educate and empower adherents, and whether and how these tools are associated with the historic Black Church. The book is particularly interested in how large black congregations – megachurches – use rituals found in worship, theology, racial beliefs, programmatic efforts, and other tools from their cultural repertoire to instruct congregants to model success in word and deed.”

Black Megachurch Culture has been promoted to academics for use by religious studies departments, as well as to churches.

The second book to be published was coordinated by Antonio Tillis, Chair of African and African American Studies at Dartmouth University. His book will focus on black Brazilian identity and will be available in January 2011.

“The Black Studies and Critical Thinking series does not just discuss African Americans in America but focuses on issues around black people throughout the diaspora, whether they are in Brazil, America or Russia,” Brock said. “Our book series is an international discussion.”

As the series editors, Brock and Johnson worked with Chris Meyers, the president of Peter Lang America, to develop the series by creating a mission statement, deciding the focus of the series, and developing a list of experts from around the country who could be strong authors.

“I look at the series as a way to shape the discussion on black studies, and also as a way to provide opportunities to my colleagues around the country to get their voices heard about what is important to the black culture, both generally and specifically,” Brock said.

Brock’s goal is to have 40 titles signed each year, which would be about five to 10 titles per sub-discipline.

By 2012, if all the authors submit their manuscripts to Brock for review, she estimates there will have been more than 20 books published in the series.

Published books in the Black Studies and Critical Thinking series can be purchased in traditional book stores, as well as on Peter Lang’s Web site at

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