Kaylen Smith is a Ph.D. student from Georgia whose research focuses on African-American religious and social history. She graduated magna cum laude from Williams College with highest honors and a B.A. in History, Psychology, and Africana Studies in the spring of 2022. Kaylen is broadly interested in studying the intersections of race and religion, particularly concerning the African American experience.
Before coming to Princeton, Kaylen served as a student Teaching Assistant for the Africana Studies Department at Williams and researched as a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow. Her undergraduate thesis, “Material Repentance: The Religion Behind Reparations,” won the Russell H. Bostert Prize for best thesis in American history and the Robert C.L. Scott Graduate Study Prize for the best thesis of a student pursuing graduate study. Her research evaluated Black Power activist and former Executive Secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), James Forman, his Black Manifesto (1969), and the demand for reparations from white religious institutions. As such, her thesis explored the relationship between the call for reparations and the idea of repentance, while also examining related issues of white churches' economic and political investments.