JA slide show

Prof. Randal Maurice Jelks - Author, Lecturer, Mentor, Social Activist

Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement

In this first full-length biography of Benjamin Mays (1894-1984), Randal Maurice Jelks chronicles the life of the man Martin Luther King Jr. called his "spiritual and intellectual father." Dean of the Howard University School of Religion, president of Morehouse College, and mentor to influential black leaders, Mays had a profound impact on the education of the leadership of the black church and of a generation of activists, policymakers, and educators. Jelks argues that Mays's ability to connect the message of Christianity with the responsibility to challenge injustice prepared the black church for its pivotal role in the civil rights movement.

From Mays's humble origins in Epworth, South Carolina, through his doctoral education, his work with institutions such as the National Urban League, the NAACP, and the national YMCA movement, and his significant career in academia, Jelks creates a rich portrait of the man, the teacher, and the scholar. Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement is a powerful portrayal of one mans faith, thought, and mentorship in bringing American apartheid to an end.




"Jelks uses Benjamin Mays as a lens through which to view the institutions, ideas, and personalities that sustained black thinkers and theologians during decades of struggle. This book is essential in filling out the picture of African American intellectual and cultural life through much of the twentieth century."
--Paul Harvey, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs


"Jelks demonstrates how this spiritual and intellectual giant reinvigorated the countrys religious faith and brought it to bear on contemporary problems. This compelling assessment of Mays is a powerful and moving tribute and will be taken seriously by scholars and public alike."
--Orville Vernon Burton, author The Age of Lincoln


"This is no ordinary achievement. With excellent scholarship and critical reading, Jelks illuminates an often unnoticed and unheralded tradition of discourse and practice to reveal the shining truth that without a Mays you don't get a Martin!"
--Walter Earl Fluker, Martin Luther King Jr. Professor of Ethical Leadership and editor of the Howard Thurman Papers Project, Boston University School of Theology

order on the UNC Press site now!


Award Winning Author: African Americans in the Furniture City


African Americans in the Furniture City is unique not only in terms of its subject, but also for its framing of the African American struggle for survival, civil rights, and community inside a discussion of the larger white community. Examining the African-American community of Grand Rapids, Michigan between 1850 and 1954, Randal Maurice Jelks uncovers the ways in which its members faced urbanization, responded to structural racism, developed in terms of occupations, and shaped their communal identities.

Focusing on the intersection of African Americans' nineteenth-century cultural values and the changing social and political conditions in the first half of the twentieth century, Jelks pays particularly close attention to the religious community's influence during their struggle toward a respectable social identity and fair treatment under the law. He explores how these competing values defined the community's politics as it struggled to expand its freedoms and change its status as a subjugated racial minority.

"The story of blacks in Grand Rapids is fascinating. African Americans in the Furniture City makes a provocative argument with conclusions clearly supported by the evidence, and this book represents a new departure that will enrich discussions on the urbanization of African Americans during the twentieth century."-

Dennis Dickerson, James A. Lawson Professor of History, Vanderbilt University, author of Out of the Crucible: Black Steelworkers in Western Pennsylvania, 1875-1980

Order University of Illinois Press


You are here: Home