Author Randal Jelks casts Martin Luther King Jr.’s vision forward to 2022 in “Letters to Martin”

Randal Jelks argues that Dr. King’s legacy is often sugarcoated, and that we conveniently forget his push for “radical democracy.”

Book cover of "Letters to Martin" by Randal Maurice Jelks

Americans have been having some very serious conversations about race, inequality and police brutality in the past two years.

I think we often miss King as this radical democrat all the time.” —Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks, author of “Letters to Martin”

A new book looks at those themes through the lens of democracy, ruminating on them through a series of letters addressed to Dr. King himself.

Listen: Author and scholar Randal Jelks talks about “Letters to Martin” and MLK’s legacy.



Dr. Randal Maurice Jelks is a professor of African and African American Studies and American Studies at the University of Kansas. He’s the author of the book “Letters to Martin: Meditations on Democracy in Black America.”

“My reading of Martin Luther King is as a radical Democrat,” says Jelks. “I think we often miss King as this radical democrat all the time, and so I wanted to bring that viewpoint.”

“I would argue that Dr. King’s radical democracy is coming out of Black America.”

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