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Jelks Earns Prestigious Fellowship
April 26, 2006

Calvin College professor of history Randal Jelks has been selected as a National Humanities Center Fellow for 2006-2007.

The Center received over 500 applications for the 2006-2007 Fellowships, and selected just 40 academics to receive the honor. Jelks is one of 15 historians selected for 2006-2007, but the only one from a Michigan college or university.

He will spend the academic year in North Carolina where he will work on a research project in the humanities, and will share ideas in seminars, lectures and conferences.

JelksJelks, who also is director of Calvin's new minor in African and African Diaspora Studies, earned the Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and will work on an intellectual biography of Benjamin Elijah Mays, a man Jelks calls "a religious rebel in the Jim Crow south."

Mays was a Baptist preacher and a college president (he headed Morehouse College from 1940 to 1967). Interestingly Jelks is both an ordained minister and a college professor.

Jelks, author of the recently released book African Americans in the Furniture City, says: "Mays mentored a generation of civil rights activists. His theological thinking was central to his concerns as an Afro-Southerner combating Jim Crow. He used his theological training to create an insurgent movement among African American Baptist and white mainline Protestants about American racial inequities, rural impoverishment and civil rights."

The National Humanities Center, located in the Research Triangle Park of North Carolina, is a privately incorporated independent institute for advanced study in the humanities. Since 1978 the Center has awarded fellowships to leading scholars in the humanities, whose work at the Center has resulted in the publication of more than 900 books in all fields of humanistic study. The Center also sponsors programs to strengthen the teaching of the humanities in secondary and higher education.

The National Humanities Center awards more than $1.4 million in fellowship grants that enable scholars to take leave from their normal academic duties and pursue research at the Center.

Prior to heading to North Carolina, Jelks will spend four weeks this summer at Harvard University after having been selected as a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant. He will study African American Civil Rights Struggles in the Twentieth Century at Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois Institute.