Known for her advocacy of the womanist and black liberation theology movements, she served on the Christian Ethics faculty of Virginia's Union Presbyterian Seminary. Her publications include Katie's Canon: Womanism and the Soul of the Black Community and Womanist Theological Ethics: A Reader.
After graduating from Barber-Scotia College in North Carolina, she began her theological studies at the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Georgia and, later, at New York's Union Theological Seminary.
She was the first African American female minister in the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
She and her seven siblings were born and raised in Kannapolis, North Carolina. She later lived and taught in Richmond, Virginia.
Her nephew Nick Cannon had a successful career as a television actor.