First Book Grant for Scholars of Color

The First Book Grant for Scholars of Color (FBG) provides grants up to US$55,000 to assist early career, pre-tenured religion scholars of color to complete a major research project about Christian faith and life, the practice of ministry, religious trends and movements, Christian and other faith-based institutions, and religion and social issues. Of particular interest to the Louisville Institute are projects that bridge academic scholarship and the life of the church in North America.

2025 Application Portal Opens June 1, 2024.

Application due date: January 15, 2025 (11:59 p.m. EST)

Project grant amount: up to US$55,000

Project timeframe: academic year 2025-2026 of calendar year 2026

Awards announced: April 2025

Winter SEminar: January 21-23, 2026

What is the First Book Grant for Scholars of Color?

The First Book Grant for Scholars of Color (FBG) supports academic sabbatical leave for research projects about Christian faith and life, the practice of ministry, religious trends and movements, Christian and other faith-based institutions, and religion and social issues. The intention of the First Book Grant is to help early-career scholars of color compete research and writing for publication of their first book (or a second book, if necessary for tenure). We are especially interested in projects that demonstrate a desire to bridge the North American church and academy, and preference is given to studies already underway (e.g., projects under contract or consideration with a publisher).

Applicants should be pre-tenured faculty members working in full-time, tenure-track or renewable contract/continual academic positions at accredited institutions of higher education (seminary, theological school, or college/university) in the United States or Canada. The FBG typically buys academic release that enables scholars to spend a full school year devoted to the research project free from teaching and administrative responsibilities. Grants awarded in the 2025 cycle will fund sabbaticals taking place during the 2025-2026 academic year, or during the 2026 calendar year. You can read more about previous FBG grantees and their projects on our website.

What do I need to know to apply?

Who is eligible for a First Book Grant?

Eligible candidates: 

    • are self-identified persons of color
    • have earned a terminal research degree, typically a Ph.D. or Th.D.
    • are pre-tenured faculty members working in full-time, tenure-track or renewable contract/continual academic positions at accredited institutions of higher education (seminary, theological school, or college/university) in the United States or Canada
    • can negotiate release time of up to a full academic year free from teaching and administrative responsibilities
    • are engaged in a scholarly research project leading to publication of their first book, or a second book if necessary for tenure at their institution
    • may work in various fields such as history, systematic and practical theology, social science, ethics, biblical studies, etc., or be interdisciplinary

Additional eligibility information:

    • Doctoral students are not eligible for a First Book Grant but may be eligible for one of our fellowship programs.

See additional stipulations below. For questions about grant eligibility, please email

How can I use First Book Grant funds?

    • FBG funds typically buy release time from academic duties, usually to support a second term or semester of academic release to supplement an existing semester/term sabbatical. If you work at an institution that does not grant sabbaticals and/or if you are in a full-time, permanent teaching position that does not include sabbatical leave, you must contact us to discuss your eligibility before applying for this grant:
    • It is common for the total amount of a First Book Grant budget to be designated for salary/benefit replacement.
    • If you are requesting sabbatical funds for research materials or assistance, travel, or other resources, you will need to prepare a line-item budget and an explanatory budget narrative.

For questions about grant proposals, please email

What is Winter Seminar?

First Book grantees attend Winter Seminar, a three-day gathering in Louisville, KY, in which award recipients from four different Louisville Institute programs gather to share their projects and engage in valuable collaboration together. Winter Seminar for this grant cycle will take place January 21–23, 2026, and all related expenses for participants are paid by the Louisville Institute. Attending this event is a requirement for receiving a First Book Grant.

How do I apply?

  1. Download the 2025 FBG Application Guide. The application guide contains the details you need. Read the guide carefully and refer to it as you prepare your application materials.
  2. Review the eligibility requirements in the guide.
  3. Create an account. Click on the “Apply” button to create an account in the application portal. (Application portal opens June 1, 2024)
  4. Prepare your materials. Complete applications require the following (see the Application Guide for full details):
      1. General Application Information
      2. Project Summary
      3. Project Narrative
      4. Bibliography
      5. Line Item Budget & Budget Narrative
      6. Curriculum Vitae or resume
      7. Two Letters of Recommendation
      8. Letter of Release
  5. All application elements are submitted online through our application portal.
  6. Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EST January 15, 2025, and letters of recommendation are due from the recommenders January 22, 2025.

What is the Selection process for First Book Grants?

The Louisville Institute appoints a selection committee to review proposals and award First Book Grants for Scholars of Color. The selection committee meets about 8 weeks after the application due date. In recent years, we have averaged 20 applications and this year we will award 3 grants. All applicants are notified by email as soon as possible after the selection process. Awards will be announced publicly in April 2025.

How can I ask for feedbackon my project?

We can provide some initial feedback on your project idea to see if it’s a good fit for our grants. Being specific and focused about your project will yield more helpful feedback from us. Before you submit a feedback request, please run your idea by trusted colleagues to get their thoughts. Additionally, if your project involves other participants (such as church or community members, or others who will be central to your project), please seek their input before asking for LI feedback.

To request feedback, use this link to respond to the following questions:

    • What is the primary question you want to explore? (50 words or fewer)
    • Why is this project important to you, your community, and/or the church in North America? (100 words or fewer)
    • How are you planning to carry out your study? Give a brief overview of where and/or with whom you hope to work, the research methods you might use (e.g., archival research, interviews, surveys, observation, visits, etc.), and why you’ve chosen these strategies (350 words or fewer).

Note: Because we receive many requests for feedback, responses can take several weeks, but we will respond to all feedback requests submitted prior to December 1, 2024.

Additional Eligibility Information for all Grants & Fellowships

    • You are welcome to apply again for any of our grants or fellowships – in fact, it’s very common! However, you may only apply for one grant or fellowship between June 1, 2024, and May 31, 2025.
    • Any previous fellowships or grants from the Louisville Institute must be completed and final reports submitted before applying for another LI fellowship or grant.
    • Members of the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary staff, faculty, Board of Trustees, or student body, or their immediate family members (parents, spouses, or children), are ineligible for Louisville Institute grants or fellowships. Members of the Louisville Institute Advisory Board and their immediate family members are also ineligible to apply.
    • Louisville Institute grantees may not simultaneously hold two individual grants from Lilly Endowment-funded organizations that together total more than US$55,000. Please contact us if you have any questions about this stipulation: Individual grants are those held by the same project director, not necessarily the same institution.

Questions? Don’t hesitate to contact us!