Dr. Cain Hope Felder: Longtime School of Divinity professor

The path to becoming an established author, commentator, professor, editor and preacher has taken Dr. Cain Hope Felder (B.A. ‘66) from Howard to Princeton to Oxford, and back again, as he celebrates his 35th and final year teaching at a place he considers to be the start of it all. 

Born in Aiken, S.C., Felder never planned to become a scholar in New Testament language and literature. As with many things in his life, he seemed predestined to his course. Since childhood, Felder consistently came in contact with clergy and ministers who helped guide his interests toward Biblical studies. 

After graduating from Howard, Felder worked as the fi rst National Director of the United Methodist Black Caucus in Atlanta. However, it wasn’t until he began teaching at Princeton Theological Seminary, as a member of the Department of Biblical Studies, that he realized the uniqueness he possessed as a welleducated African American within his profession. 

Working at Princeton Theological Seminary had its challenges for Felder at times, as he was only one of two Black faculty members teaching predominantly White students. Felder worked diligently to establish himself as a leader among the faculty and a respected professor among his students.

Felder recalls running across campus one morning, in an effort to make it to class on time. As he ran, it was the words of another faculty member that caused him to slow down and take in the revelation that his students had fi nally realized the fruits of his labor.

“He says, ‘Cain, slow down. Let me say something to you,’” Felder said. “‘You don’t have to run anymore for classes. The students are waiting for you, and they will continue to wait for you until you arrive.’ I’ll tell you, I started walking slowly and deliberately. It feels like a rite of passage, and what you realize is that you really are being taken seriously in what is going to be your lifelong vocation.” 

Felder was the editor of The Journal of Religious Thought and chair of the Academic Standing and Doctoral Programs committees at the School of Divinity. Felder has published more than fi ve books, including “Troubling Biblical Waters: Race, Class, and Family” and “Stony the Road We Trod: African American Biblical Interpretation.” His love of Biblical study has taken him to Egypt, Greece, Israel and more.

Since retirement in May, Felder embraces his experiences at Howard and considers them the stepping stones he has climbed to his current state of success.

“I don’t know if I could have been more productive as a scholar in any other place but here,” Felder said. “Because, in a genuine sense, I really felt so relieved to be back in D.C., to be here at Howard.”

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