Author Randal Jelks Returns to Elmhurst on Feb. 14 to Give MLK Lecture

January 31, 2024 | by the Office of Marketing and Communications

letters to martin

In February of 2017, Randal Maurice Jelks, an award-winning author, documentary filmmaker and professor at the University of Kansas, came to Elmhurst University to give the Martin Luther King Jr. Intercultural Lecture.

During that talk, as Jelks reflected on King’s work and words, he said he wanted students to understand that “the struggle to live democratically is lifelong” but that they would not be alone, and that participation would ultimately lead to change.

Jelks’ lecture at Elmhurst inspired his most recent book, Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America (2022). The book includes 12 meditations, written as letters to King, that speak to issues Americans continue to confront today, including economic inequality and social class conflict.

On Feb. 14, Jelks will return to Elmhurst U. to talk about Letters to Martin as the keynote speaker at this year’s MLK lecture.

An author of both scholarly and journalistic books and articles, Jelks’ areas of interest include American religious studies, religions of the African diaspora, and religion in American social movements. In addition to Letters to Martin, he is the author of Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali (2019); African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Grand Rapids (2006); and the award-winning Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography (2012).

The Martin Luther King Jr. Intercultural Lecture begins at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 14, in the Frick Center, Founders Lounge. Admission is free and all are welcome. The intercultural lectures and other diverse cultural programming at Elmhurst University support community engagement and lifelong learning, and prepare students to thrive as adaptive leaders. For more information, email

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