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President Emeritus of Morehouse College Will Deliver MLK Celebration Keynote

Educator and scholar Robert Michael Franklin Jr. will be the keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King celebration Jan. 24 at 7 p.m. in the Newcomb Hall Ballroom at the University of Virginia.

The event, free and open to the public, also will feature performances from three choirs: U.Va.’s Black Voices Gospel Choir, the Black Awakening Gospel Choir from Virginia Commonwealth University and the Virginia State University Gospel Chorale.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery, had been scheduled to deliver the keynote address, but cancelled for health reasons.

With the theme, “Montgomery to Main,” the 2013 Community MLK Celebration spans a month of events and is a collaborative effort involving the University’s Office of Diversity and Equity, several U.Va. schools and offices, community partners, Piedmont Virginia Community College and the Paramount Theater. For information about all the events, click here.

“We are very fortunate to have Rev. Dr. Robert Michael Franklin Jr. come to speak at the University,” said Dr. Marcus Martin, U.Va. vice president and chief officer for diversity and equity. King also attended Morehouse College, Martin noted.

Franklin is a visiting scholar in residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute. He is president emeritus of Morehouse College, the nation’s largest private, four-year liberal arts college for men, where he served as the 10th president from 2007 to 2012.

Franklin was the Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics at Emory University from 2004 to 2007, where he provided leadership for a universitywide initiative, “Confronting the Human Condition and the Human Experience,” and was a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion at the law school.

He provides commentary for the National Public Radio program, “All Things Considered,” and weekly commentary for Atlanta Interfaith Broadcasting Television.     

Franklin’s major fields of study include social ethics, psychology and African-American religion. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Morehouse in 1975 with a degree in political science and religion. Ordained in the Church of God in Christ in 1975, he earned a master of divinity degree in Christian social ethics and pastoral care in 1978 at Harvard Divinity School, where he also served as assistant director of ministry education.

He continued his education at the University of Chicago, earning a doctorate in ethics and society, and religion and the social sciences in 1985. He also studied at the University of Durham in Great Britain, as a 1973 English Speaking Union Scholar.

Franklin has served on the faculties of the University of Chicago, Harvard Divinity School, Colgate-Rochester Divinity School and at Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, where he gained a national reputation as director of Black Church Studies.

He also has served as program officer in Human Rights and Social Justice at the Ford Foundation, and as an adviser to the foundation’s president on future funding for religion and public life initiatives.

Franklin is the author of three books: “Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities” (2007); “Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis” (1997); and “Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought” (1990). He co-wrote a volume titled, “From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate” (2001). He also penned the foreword to King’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012. 

Active in a range of organizations, Franklin serves the boards of the Salvation Army, the CNN Dialogues Advisory Committee and NASA’s 100-year Starship Project Advisory Board, directed by former astronaut Mae Jemison. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity. In addition, he is a member of the Atlanta Falcons Advisory Board; Atlanta Rotary Club; 100 Black Men of Atlanta; and the Leadership and Sustainability Institute Working Group of the Open Society Foundation.

A seasoned traveler, Franklin has studied seven languages and visited Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East and the Caribbean. He is the recipient of a Ford Foundation grant to examine religion in public life in Asia. He has also served as a consultant for the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s work on alleviating poverty and strengthening fragile families.

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