Randal Maurice Jelks, PhD

Professor
Primary office:
785.864.9476
213N Bailey Hall


Summary

Randal Maurice Jelks is Professor of African and African American Studies and American Studies. He is the author of the two award winning books African Americans in the Furniture City: The Struggle for Civil Rights Struggle in Grand Rapids and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography. His latest book is titled Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans: Ethel Waters, Mary Lou Williams, Eldridge Cleaver and Muhammad Ali. Jelks has recently contributed to a collection of essays titled 42 Today: Jack Robinson and His Legacy edited by Michael Long. His forthcoming book is Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America (Lawrence Hill Books, Chicago, Fall 2021). His writings have appeared in the Boston Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books as well as blogs, journals, newspapers, and periodicals. He is the co-editor of the academic journal American Studies. Jelks serves an executive producer of a documentary film I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled directed by Kevin Willmott, 2019 Academy Award co-winner best screenplay adaptation BlacKkKlansman.

Teaching

Philosophically I approach teaching American Studies and African and African American Studies from the perspective that the classroom or seminar is a discursive space to foster new insights, wise practices, and democratic social engagement. My scholarly research on American religion, Religion in Africa's Diasporas as well as Social Movements histories informs my instruction by providing me with new materials, methodological queries, and insights. Sharing my research with students on America's histories and cultural confluences leads me to my ultimate objective, which is to assist students in wise deliberations regarding our respective humanity as individuals and the multiple environmental factors that structure our human planetary existence.

Classroom Teaching
My first task as a teacher is to engage students' minds by building a classroom setting that fosters a discursive community where ideas are respectfully exchanged, content knowledge enhanced, and skills of critical analysis are honed. Regularly I begin all classes by affirming students' intellects and challenging them to bring their focused minds and articulate voices into the classroom. I attempt to accomplish these things through organized syllabi, challenging readings, philosophical queries, engaged lectures and thoughtful assignments in and outside of the class or seminar.

Teaching Interests

  • American Religion
  • American Social Movements, Civil Rights
  • African Studies
  • African American Studies
  • Religions in the African Diaspora

Research

My Ph.D. training was in Comparative history Black Histories with subfields in American Religious History and Continental Philosophy. The major focus of my research is American religion in terms of its cultural usage in American politics and social movements. As a historian I explore how ideas surrounding race, gender, and social class are influenced by religious faith and belief in the United States, Caribbean, and Africa. I am especially interested in how these ideas affect African Americans as they attempt to escape the restrictive boundaries of race

Research Interests

  • African American Religion
  • American Religion
  • American Social Movements
  • Civil Rights Movement
  • Religions in the Africa Diaspora

Current Classes:
AMS 110: American Identities
AMS 801: Introduction to Graduate Study


Announcements
  • Listen to Margaret Kelley discuss it's not just fear of violence or belief in the second amendment and gun rights prompting gun ownership.  On this episode of WhenExpertsAttack she explains that concerns about Armageddon and "supernatural" evil also are at play.  
  • Congratulations to Bobby Cervantes for being awarded the Harry Middleton Fellowship in Presidential Studies!
  • Read about Afro-Puerto Rican illustrator Eric Velasquez in this piece written by William García-Medina for Teaching For Change.
  • Geoffrey Newman did a podcast for the journal Kansas History that was broadcast on 91.9 KSDB-FM.  It is available online here.
  • Congratulations to Sam Steuart for being named KU's 20th Truman scholar!
  • This article, written by Geoffrey Newman, was published in the August edition of the Kansas History Journal. Congratulations Geoffrey!
  • Congratulations to Ph.D. candidate Kathryn Vaggalis for being awarded the American Studies Association's 2018 Gene Wise-Warren Susman Prize!
  • KU-AUMI InterArts was recently featured by the Commons in a video on improving inclusive communities at KU. You can watch the video, which features our own Sherrie Tucker amongst other founders of the movement at KU, and learn more about AUMI here!
  • Congratulations to Professor Robert Warrior on being elected to a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • This articlewritten by Ph.D. candidate Hannah Bailey, was published in the latest edition of Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal. Congratulations, Hannah!
  • We would like to recognize Patrick Sumner, 2005 alumni, for his work in this article about the defacement of the John Brown memorial in the Quindaro area of Kansas City, Kansas.
  • Please read this article about Professor Robert Warrior titled: Native scholar uncomfortably at home in American studies field.
  • Congratulations to Daniel Carey-Whalen, an alumni that was recently promoted as UTEP's Centennial Museum director.
  • Congratulations to Josh Parshall, an alumni who was recently featured in this article.
  • How a motion-tracking musical software is breaking down barriers for people with disabilities: click here to read more about the Adaptive Use Musical Instrument (AUMI), a one-of-a-kind piece of inclusive technology that promotes musical improvisation. The article recognizes Professor Sherrie Tucker, who started AUMI jam sessions and helped to bring the grant and symposium for it to Lawrence. Written by Omar Sanchez
  • KU Special Education Department: With Ray Pence
  • Tribute Or Tribulation? How do we commemorate history? What is the best way to remember a conflicted and painful past? And who gets to decide? Listen here »
Upcoming Events
Hall Center Humanities Lecture Series

A forum for interdisciplinary dialogue between renowned speakers, the university and the surrounding communities.
Schedule of Lectures

 

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