Dr. Randal Jelks presented “With This Faith: Black Freedom Struggles and Democratic Faith” on February 27, 2020 at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The lecture was in conjunction with Museum’s Temporary Exhibit The Continual Struggle: The American Freedom Movement and the Seeds of Social Change.

Black American communities have exhibited an abiding faith in democracy based in religion and culture. Dr. Jelks’ talk explored how various participants in Black Freedom Struggles thought about democratic governance and the faith that it takes to live out its principles.

Randal Maurice Jelks is an awarding winning Professor of American Studies and African American Studies at the University of Kansas. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan (BA), McCormick Theological Seminary (MDiv) and Michigan State University (PhD).

Jelks has authored two award winning books African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids, which won the 2006 State History Award, University and Commercial Press, Historical Society of Michigan; and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography, winner of the 2013 Lillian Smith Book Award and the 2013 Literary Award, Black Caucus of the American Library Association. Jelks has most recently written Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali.

He has participated in The Oxford Conference for the Book at the University of Mississippi, South Florida Book Festival, Southern Book Festival in Nashville, appeared on C-Span, and written op-eds in media outlets around the country. He is currently researching and writing several other books. Additionally, Jelks serves as an executive producer of the documentary I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled.

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