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Sunday, April 28, 2019

3:00 PM - 5:00 PM

Auburn Avenue Research Library
101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta, Georgia 30303
United States


The Baton Foundation, Inc., in partnership with the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History, will host a conversation between authors Randal M. Jelks and Tayari Jones (An American Marriage) about Black faith-based personal freedom. Both authors’ most recent book will be available for purchase. This program is free and open to the public.

Program Narrative

Neither the slaves’ whip nor the lynchers’ rope nor the bayonet could kill our Black belief–Margaret Walker

This sentiment informs and empowers each of the four personalities profiled in Faith and Struggle in the Lives of Four African Americans. Author Randal Maurice Jelks shows that to understand the Black American experience beyond the larger narratives of enslavement, emancipation, and Black Lives Matter, we need to hear the individual stories. Drawing on his own experiences growing up as a religious man, he shows that the inner history of Blacks in the 20th century is a story worth telling.

This book explores the faith stories of four individuals: Atlanta native Mary Lou Williams, Ethel Waters, Eldridge Cleaver, and Muhammad Ali. It examines their autobiographical writings, interviews, speeches, letters, and memorable performances 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. For them, liberation was not simply defined by material or legal wellbeing, but by a spiritual search for community and personal wholeness.

About the Featured Author

Randal Maurice Jelks is Professor of African and African American Studies and American Studies. He holds courtesy appointments in History, Religious Studies, and is the co-Editor of the journal American Studies. Jelks is a graduate of the University of Michigan (BA in History), McCormick Theological Seminary (Masters of Divinity) and Michigan State University (Ph.D. in Comparative Black Histories). Jelks is also clergy person in the Presbyterian Church (USA). 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 (The University of Illinois Press, 2006), which was awarded the 2006 State History Award, University and Commercial Press, Historical Society of Michigan and Benjamin Elijah Mays, Schoolmaster of the Movement: A Biography (University of North Carolina Press 2012), awarded the 2013 Lillian Smith Book Award and the 2013 Literary Award, Black Caucus of the American Library Association. 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 (Bloomsbury January 2019). Currently Jelks is writing a book titled My Friends Call Me Benny: The Benjamin Mays Story for Young Readers. In addition, serving as an executive producer of a two-part biographical documentary I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled. Jelks has been a fellow at the National Humanities Center in Research Park Triangle, North Carolina and has held a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in American Studies at Masaryk University, Brno Czech Republic (2015), has been a Visiting Lecturer at University of Regensburg (2014), Regensburg, Germany and taught at the University of Ghana, Institute for African Studies (2001 and 2007).

About Tayari Jones

Tayari Jones is the author of four novels, including An American Marriage, Silver Sparrow, The Untelling, and Leaving Atlanta. Jones holds degrees from Spelman College, Arizona State University, and the University of Iowa. A winner of numerous literary awards, she is a professor of creative writing at Emory University.

NOTE: Limited free parking is available in the lot behind the library. You may secure a parking pass from the library’s concierge desk. Also, recording of any kind is not permitted at Baton Foundation events.

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Registration is closed for this event.

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