The Reverend Doctor Leonard E. Barrett, Sr., PhD, was born on January 26, 1920, in St. Elizabeth Jamaica, the son of Jerry Barrett and Katherine Wells-Barrett. Raised in Jamaica with humble beginnings and limited opportunities, Barrett’s perseverance and a quest for intellectual and spiritual experiences shaped his path as an academician, anthropologist, author, and theologian, who spent more than 50 years of his life, educating and inspiring students, colleagues, and communities
Reverend Dr. Barrett attained his BA in history and philosophy from Albright College in Reading, PA; an MA in African history from Temple University, in Philadelphia, PA; a M.Div. from United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio; and his PhD from Temple University, where his research focused on comparative religion and anthropology. In addition to all these accomplishments, Dr. Barrett was an accomplished tailor.
In 1958, he would become the first African-Jamaican-American to pastor an interracial congregation at the Trinity United Method Church in Germantown, among my father's many accomplishments. See Philadelphia Bulletin article: “White Church Calls Negro As Pastor in Germantown.”
As a scholar, Dr. Barrett influenced people from around the world. A masterful storyteller, he was remarkably skilled at making an impact and leaving an impression. As headmaster at Bethel College in Jamaica, he taught “late bloomers,” some of whom became doctors and ministers.
He taught two years at the InterAmerican University in Puerto Rico and two years in Canada. At the Graduate level, he mentored and advised students through their degree programs. Many of these young men and women are now professors and authors of scholarly publications.
Dr. Barrett held prominent professorships at Temple University, University of Pennsylvania, the Inter American University in Puerto Rico and the Charles A. Dana Chair Professorship at Trinity College in Connecticut. Dr. Barrett also served as an expert thought leader and mediator on race relations and conflict resolution at other academic institutions such as The University of Pennsylvania and Swarthmore College. Barrett was committed to connecting culture, community, and educational institutions and was known to have turned down positions at elite Ivy League institutions to serve and educate in a “real” world institution such as Temple University.
As an anthropologist, researcher, and author, Dr. Barrett traveled extensively and often led on educational research trips to Africa and the Caribbean for public school teachers. He is the author of five anthropological books for which he continues to receive national and international acclaim. At least three of those books are widely considered classics: The Rastafarians, Soul Force, and The Sun and the Drum. Dr. Barrett’s books have been translated into Spanish, German, French, and Japanese. Soul Force was nominated for the National Book Award in 1975, as the most outstanding publication in the United States in the area of Religion and Philosophy. Over 71 articles were presented at symposiums, and many are published in scientific journals and anthologies.
In addition to the above, his academic achievements brought him awards for excellence in languages, mainly Greek and Hebrew. He also studied Spanish, French, and German.
Dr. Barrett held pastorates in Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and the United States. In 1958, he would become the first Jamaican American to pastor an interracial congregation at Trinity Evangelical United Brethren Church (now merged into The Methodist Church) in the Germantown area of Philadelphia.
Dr. Barrett was happily wedded to the late Theodora J. Barrett on August 12, 1950, in Reading, Pa. Theodora, like her mother, was an accomplished journalist, and from this beautiful union reared three offspring, Linda, Leonard, Jr., and Terry Lee. Two grandchildren also survive him Leonard III, and Alexandra.
Please view a Power Point Presentation on The Life of Dr. Leonard E. Barrett, Sr., PhD, here: https://youtu.be/5tvVOeuc2CQ