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Renowned MLK scholar to deliver 2013 Harrod Lecture

by Oct. 31, 2013, 11:51 AM

Lewis Baldwin
Lewis Baldwin (Daniel Dubois/Vanderbilt University)

Lewis V. Baldwin, who has devoted much of his life to teaching and scholarship on the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., will deliver Vanderbilt University Divinity School’s 2013 Harrod Lecture Nov. 7.

In addition, scholars from across the nation will pay tribute to Baldwin’s 30 years of teaching and scholarship at Vanderbilt during a weekend conference that remembers the history of the Civil Rights Movement and looks to the future.

Baldwin’s lecture, “A Citizen of the World: The Global Martin Luther King Jr.,” will begin at 7 p.m. in Benton Chapel. The talk will be video-streamed live at

Baldwin noted that the lecture title comes from a statement King himself made in his book The Trumpet of Conscience. “On page 31, in a speech called ‘Conscience and the Vietnam War,’ King wrote: ‘I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken.'”

The Howard L. Harrod Lecture was established to honor Harrod, the Oberlin Alumni Professor of Social Ethics and Sociology of Religion, who taught for more than 30 years at Vanderbilt. Harrod worked extensively in environmental ethics and activism and was an advocate for new ways of understanding the relationships of humans with the animal and natural worlds.

Baldwin, a professor of religious studies in the College of Arts and Science and ordained Baptist minister, will retire at the end of the fall semester. The Program in African American and Diaspora Studies and Research Center is sponsoring a two-day conference Nov. 8 and 9 in honor of Baldwin’s work devoted to American religious history and the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

“The Voice of Conscience: Civil Rights, Post Civil Rights and the Future Freedom Struggle,” will take place at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center and Vanderbilt Divinity School. Panel discussions include “The Civil Rights Movement: Remembering and Honoring Our Past,” “Post Civil Rights Wanderings Among the Hip Hop Generation,” and “Where Do We Go From Here: The Future of the Freedom Movement.”

In addition, there will be a plenary address by Maria Gitin, author of This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight (forward written by Baldwin). Gitlin will speak on “Ordinary Heroes in Alabama.”

Baldwin, a native of Camden, Ala., grew up in the so-called Alabama Blackbelt and participated in student marches and demonstrations related to the Civil Rights Movement. Baldwin saw King speak on voting rights in 1966 at a Camden church and said he felt a calling since college to further the Civil Rights leader’s impact on the world.

Baldwin is the editor of In a Single Garment of Destiny by Martin Luther King Jr. In addition, he has authored or co-authored several books on King, including Between the Cross and the Crescent: Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Malcolm and Martin, There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King Jr., and Never to Leave Us Alone: The Prayer Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Baldwin, who came to Vanderbilt in 1984, earned his doctorate in American Christianity from Northwestern University. He has done numerous lectures and national media interviews about the significance of King’s work around the world.

Although Baldwin will step down from teaching, he will continue to work on several publications, including God of Our Silent Tears: Sermons from the Depths of the Human Spirit and The Harmonies of Liberty: Malcolm X and the Black Nationalist Tradition.

Co-sponsors of the conference are: Vanderbilt Divinity School, the Kelly Miller Smith Institute on Black Church Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School, Office of the Provost, Dean’s Office of the College of Arts and Science, The Project in Black Preaching at Vanderbilt Divinity School, and the Black Religious Scholars Group at Vanderbilt Divinity School.

For more information on the Harrod Lecture, email Sha’Tika Brown. For the conference schedule of events, visit the events page of the Program in African American and Diaspora Studies and Research Center.