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Theology of Martin Luther King Jr. Unit

Call for Proposals

Music, Justice, and King  

(60 minutes) The MLK unit is interested in the music as a category for liberation and social justice. Music was integral in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was surrounded by musicians and grew to have a great appreciation for the power of music to mobilize and inspire. From spirituals to freedom songs, from gospel to jazz, King understood music as a source of hope. Within the larger civil rights movement, too, music was an important element in the lives of social activists and demonstrators.  The Martin Luther King, Jr. unit invites papers that consider the role of music and the arts in civil rights movement.   We are interested in the influence of music as category of interpretation in the civil rights movement, especially in the life Martin Luther King, Jr. More broadly, however, we seek papers that provide new resources or ways of thinking about the spirituals, jazz, and, gospel music as significant freedom tools as evidenced among freedom fighters in this period.  To this end we invite papers that:

  • Offer methodological approaches that center music as an interpretative category in the civil rights movement.
  • Explore music and embodiment, namely how music is produced in and by the body and how the body responds to music
  • Engage the musicality of the Black sermonic tradition in King and/or the broader movement: how song is interjected into sermons and/or how sermons themselves often take on a musical, lyrical quality when given
  • Engage freedom song, gospels, jazz, or other genres of music in the life of MLK.
  • Explore the important of musicians in the life of MLK.
  • Consider the relationship between music and social resistance.


Women and the Movement  

(90 minutes) The MLK Unit, in conjunction with the Black Theology unit, invite papers or organized paper sessions that take up the question of women and gender in the civil rights movement. Without question, women were essential in the life of Martin King Jr. and the wider civil rights movement. This session is interested in various methodological approaches toward an investigation of gender and the civil rights movement. What might an engagement between Black and womanist theologies, as well as Black studies, yield toward new ways of reading King and the wider campaign.  What new insights, from women authors, can we gain about gender, class, and sexual identities that provide fresh ways of reading the civil rights movement, especially MLK.  We are especially interested in papers that:

  • Explore the women around King.
  • Investigate the influence of women thinkers, activists, and preachers on King.
  • Engage King from the standpoint of critical theory using women theorists.
  • Employ a womanist theological lens to interrogate King’s theology.

Statement of Purpose

The work of this Unit is focused on creating conversations around the unique contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. to the Christian theological tradition in the twentieth century and to the religious, cultural, political, and economic consequences of his work. We are particularly interested in the many facets of the Civil Rights Movement, of which King was a significant part. These explorations have included a focus on the role of women in the movement, the economic dimensions of King’s work, and his use of both the theological traditions and rhetoric of the Black Church. In all of our sessions we are interested in fostering inter- and multidisciplinary approaches to this project.


Steering Committee Members


E-mail with Attachment (proposal is in attachment, not in body of e-mail)



Review Process

Proposer names are visible to chairs but anonymous to steering committee members