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Noted Scholar Randal Jelks to Discuss Faith and Struggle at Louisville Seminary

by Chris Wooton | Jan 30, 2019

Maurice JelksOn Friday, March 29, 2019, Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks will deliver a lecture about his newly published book, Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali. The lecture will take place in the Winn Center (McAtee rooms A and B) at Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1044 Alta Vista Road, Louisville, Ky. 40205) from 12:30 to 1:20 p.m. This event is free and open to the public.

Jelks' book examines the autobiographical writings, interviews, speeches, letters, and memorable performances of Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali to understand how each of these figures used religious faith publicly to reconcile deep personal struggles, voice their concerns for human dignity, and reinvent their public image. According to Jelks, for them, liberation was not simply defined by material or legal well-being, but by a spiritual search for community and personal wholeness.

Jelks is a professor of American studies and African American studies at the University of Kansas and is the co-editor of the journal American Studies. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), Jelks' research interests are in the areas of American Religious histories, African Diaspora Religions, and Religions and American Social Movements. In 2001, Jelks received a Louisville Institute Summer Stipend for the project “Benjamin Elijah Mays and the Creation of an Insurgent Negro Professional Clergy, 1930-1958,” which resulted in his published book Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography. He is also the author of African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids and is an executive producer of a two-part biographical documentary I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled in conjunction with the Dream Documentary Collective and the Lawrence Arts Center.
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