The Revealer has very rarely received as much mail as we did in response to Anthea Butler‘s response to Katrina, “As Sheep Without a Shepherd.” Some it angry about Anthea’s anger — “unAmerican,” writes Ann Meili — but most of it grateful to Anthea for giving voice to a widespread sense of rage from the perspective of a historian and a religious believer. “Thank you for that beautiful and well-articulated letter from Anthea Butler,” writes Sharleen White. “She said it so well.” Seconding Anthea’s rejection of Katrina responses that claim race had nothing to do with the disaster, Doreen Hazel writes, “We may be black, we may be poor, but hell, no, we ain’t stupid.”

Perhaps the most useful response of all came from Scott Jaschik, the editor of Inside Higher Ed. Scott commissioned Anthea to move from anger to action by writing an essay on how college teachers can help their students make sense of Katrina. Anthea is doing so in two courses at the University of Rochester, “African American Religious History” and “Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism.”

“I will revisit the issue of the cultural losses that have occurred in New Orleans,” she writes on Inside Higher Ed, “by talking about the development of religious life and culture of both African Americans and the free Creole population of New Orleans. Whether its food, jazz music, religious beliefs or Mardi Gras, African American culture and religion permeate these iconic images of New Orleans. Finally, the great migration of African Americans out of New Orleans is strangely reminiscent to the Great migration, which provided religious renewal to cities like Chicago and Detroit. One wonders if the same will occur with the New Orleanians taking their African based cultural identities with them. Fundamental to all of these is race, class, and gender. The historic hesitancy to come to the aid of African American populations because of the confluence of these constructs is core to the understanding of the tragedy unfolding in New Orleans and the gulf coast region affected by Katrina.”