Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization

The creative and intellectual legacy of Dr. King

The great freedom movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. brought about substantial advances in racial justice. Dr. King’s leadership also made inroads toward peace and economic justice—confronting the “triple evils” of racism, poverty, and militarism. The freedom movement’s successes and failures, and MLK’s prophetic thinking, offer vital lessons to help us bridge divisions, resolve personal and social crises, and transform dysfunctional institutions and systems.

Discover the creative & intellectual legacy

Union’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Studies Specialization supplements your primary work in Educational Studies, Ethical & Creative Leadership, Humanities & Culture, or Public Policy & Social Change to explore Dr. King’s ideas, ideals, practices and their meaning for today’s complex world. You will be encouraged to be visionary in your thinking and research about our world and how it might be changed for the better.

The Curriculum


MLK scholars take core and advanced seminars on MLK’s leadership and legacy, encompassing intellectual, spiritual, moral, political, psychological, and policy dimensions. They conduct a semester-long internship related to MLK’s legacy of social change and culminate their studies with the MLK capstone seminar. A required workshop and presentations by students and faculty enrich every Ph.D. residency.

Internships of our Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Studies Students

  • Interviewing civil rights icons
  • Researching the MLK Papers collection at Morehouse College
  • Developing a boys-to-men program for African American adolescents
  • Policy review and advocacy for felons returning from prison
  • Initiating a local food bank & developing area church feeding programs
  • Researching the Underground Railroad & collecting video interviews
  • Leadership program for lay leaders in a local church
  • Advocacy work for women’s reproductive rights
  • Academic skill-building for challenged youth
  • Poetry and creative writing for high school students

Dissertations, Capstone Papers, & Lectures

  • A Reflection Upon the Philosophy and Thought of Martin Luther King, Jr.
    Ray Jordan
  • An Autoethnographic Study of the Heroic Journey and Authentic Leadership
    Owen Cardwell
  • Black Mothership
    Karen Traynum-Davis
  • Developing Laity for Community Service: A Case Study of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church
    Andrea Nanbray
  • Donald Phillips | July 2011
    Noted author on leadership
  • Dr. Alice Skirtz | July 2014
    Social worker, community activist, author
  • Dr. Anthony Bogues | July 2013
    Director, Center for the Study of Slavery and Justice, Brown University
  • Dr. Betty J. Overton-Adkins | January 2015
    Visionary leader in higher education
  • Dr. Michael Quinn Patton | January 2013
    Noted scholar in evaluation research
  • Dr. O’dell Owens | July 2012
    Medical Director, Cincinnati Health Department
  • Dr. Otis Moss, Sr. | January 2011
    Retired Pastor, noted theologian and associate of Dr. King
  • Dr. Stewart Burns | January 2014
    Author and distinguished historian of the Civil Rights Movement
  • Dr. Vicki Crawford | July 2010
    Director, King Papers Project, Morehouse College
  • Dr. Virgil Wood | July 2009
    Retired Pastor, community activist and associate of Dr. King
  • Hon. Shirley Franklin | January 2012
    Former Mayor of Atlanta
  • Juana Bordas | January 2016
    Founding President of the National Hispana Leadership Institute, Latino leadership expert
  • King, the Heroic Journey and Generational Leadership Legacies
    Owen Cardwell
  • King's Pursuit of Economic Justice: Correcting Capitalism through a Beloved Economy
    Gregory Bailey
  • King’s Social Action Leadership in a Global Age: A Prophetic, Multi-framed and Interdisciplinary Approach
    Angela Walker-Dudley
  • No Way Out: Giving Voice to the Post-Prison Experiences of African-American Men in Two Ohio Counties
    Ricardo Smith
  • Non-Violent Voice Among African American Males in the Post-Civil Rights Act (CRA) 1964 Era: Transcending Social Expectations
    Clyde Posley, Jr.
  • Poetry as an Anchor for “Beloved Community”
    Kate Reavy
  • Reshaping King’s Beloved Community: The Trans-Atlantic Black Intellectual Traditions and the Experiences of Black Male Felons
    Marlon A. Smith
  • Uncovering King’s Economic Legacy
    Gregory T. Bailey
Legacy Lectures
Dissertation Titles
Capstone Papers

Hear what our

students are saying

My very valuable experience in the MLK Studies Program challenged me not just to know and teach MLK Studies, but to commit to contribute to the continuum of vital works which improve the quality of life for those impacted by oppression.”

Audrea NanabrayStudent in Ethical & Creative Leadership & MLK Specialization

The MLK program has provided me the opportunity to think deeply about ways that I might unite theories of social justice to real world advocacy and activism. Most importantly, it has distinguished my academic course work among others who study theories within black intellectual traditions.

Marlon SmithStudent in Humanities & Culture & MLK Specialization

Out of my Ph.D. studies, I developed the Heroes and Dreams Academy, currently serving nearly 250 families in at-risk environments. Union afforded me the opportunity to reflect on my own "heroic journey" and to add robust scholarship to understand the impact of America's greatest social prophet, not only to my life, but to the lives of those I serve.

Owen CardwellStudent in Ethical & Creative Leadership & MLK Specialization