Robert Baum was born in Washington, DC and grew up in Silver Spring, MD. He attended Wesleyan University for his bachelor's degree, where he first took a course on Apartheid and decided to concentrate in African history. Upon graduation, he received a Watson Fellowship, which enabled him to spend an entire year in a Diola village in southern Senegal, where he learned the language and began field research before beginning graduate school at Yale University. He returned to Senegal for two more years, and did archival work in London and Paris in preparation of his Ph.D.
West Africa's Women of God: Alinesitoué and the Diola Prophetic Tradition, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, (November 2016). Finalist for Albert J. Raboteau Prize in Africana Religions.
Shrines of the Slave Trade: Diola Religion and Society in Precolonial Senegambia, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. Winner of the American Academy of Religion Award, "Best First Book in the History of Religions," 2000.
Ancient African Religions: A History, in contract with Oxford University Press.
Calabash, Cross, and Crescent: Twentieth Century African Religious History, in contract with Cambridge University Press.
Women, Rain, and Religion: Prophets in Post-Colonial Senegal.