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John Pemberton Papers

Identifier: MA.00374

Scope and Contents

Research, field notes, correspondence, and academic papers of John Pemberton, Professor of Religion at Amherst College, primarily relating to his studies of Yoruba art, culture, and religion.


  • Creation: 1958-1997
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1972-1989


Conditions Governing Access

In general, there is no restriction on access to the collection for research use. Particularly fragile items may be restricted. This collection is stored off-site. Please contact Archives in advance of your visit to arrange access.

Conditions Governing Use

Requests for permission to publish material from the collection should be directed to the Archives and Special Collections. It is the responsibility of the researcher to identify and satisfy the holders of all copyrights.

Biographical / Historical

John Pemberton III (1928-2016) was a professor of religion at Amherst College and a scholar of Yoruba art, culture and religion. Pemberton completed his undergraduate work at Princeton University in 1948 and graduate work at Duke University, where he received a Bachelor of Divinity Degree in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1958. He joined the faculty of Amherst College in the fall of 1958. For the first two decades of his teaching career, Pemberton primarily taught courses on Christianity and western religious traditions. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as the Religion Department broadened its scope to include a wider diversity of religious thought and traditions, Pemberton shifted his scholarly focus to Africa, particularly the art, culture and religion of the Yoruba people in Nigeria.

Pemberton served as Associate Fellow of the Institute of African Studies at the University of Ibadan in Nigeria (1970-71) and as Visiting Research Associate at the University of Ife (1981-82 and 1986). His work was supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Instution, the Forn Foundation and the Mellon Foundation, among others. He was elected to the Advisory Board of the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, in 2006. Pemberton was author, co-author or editor of fourteen books and catalogues and many articles and reviews. He retired from Amherst College in 1998. He died on November 30, 2016.

Source: "Memorial Minute for John Pemberton III", Amherst College, Faculty Meetings, Memorial Minutes, [2017]


5 Linear feet (5 record cartons)

Language of Materials




Research, field notes, correspondence, and academic papers of John Pemberton, primarily relating to his studies of Yoruba art, culture, and religion.


Original arrangement and folder titles given by the creator have been retained in most cases.

Related Materials

  1. John Pemberton III Collection Related to Agemo, EEPA 2015-010, Eliot Elisofon Photographic Archives, National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  2. Ivor Miller Papers, Amherst College Archives and Special Collections.
Chris Barber, Deputy Archivist
2018 May
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Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299