Fortress Press

Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African-American Thought

Liberating Visions

Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African-American Thought

Robert M. Franklin (Author)


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The four men spotlighted in this book, together with other black religious and political leaders and communities, have developed distinctive and significant traditions of moral thinking and social criticism. … Although the principal concern of these thinkers was social justice entailing significant institutional transformations in American society, they were also attentive to the substantive content and formal character of the authentically free life and moral person. Indeed, most of them realized that authentic liberation required personal as well as social transformation. … Despite the significance and diversity of perspective in black theology, however, much of it does not adequately attend to the host of issues related to personal identity, wholeness, and fulfillment. ... This general inattention to the personal dimension of the liberation enterprise has important consequences. Failure to understand the person-centered dimension of a broader, inclusive societal transformation can lead to a disturbing paradox: an optimism concerning the future of society existing alongside personal and familial disintegration, despair and frustration. … Our method for… correcting the perspectival imbalance in black theology is to identify the finest and most-trusted resources and reflections on personal wholeness in the modern black community and to present them for revision, reconsideration, and possible reappropriation. … In this book, I examine visions of human fulfillment and of the just society as presented by Booker T. Washington (1856-1915), W. E. B. Du Bois (1868-1963), Malcolm X (1925-1965), and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968). … As I examined the ranks of post-Reconstruction African American leaders, I did so with an eye for those whose intellectual and political influence upon past and present Americans could be characterized as monumental.
  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Paperback
  • ISBN 9780800623920
  • Dimensions 5.5 x 8.5
  • Pages 176
  • Publication Date January 1, 1989


"This thought-provoking book should be read by all who are interested in understanding the major paradigms that have shaped both the moral development of African-American leaders and their respective visions of the good society. This book not only introduces a new voice in African-American scholarship. It also sets forth the basic elements for significant interdisciplinary dialogue among moral-development theorists, Christian social ethicists, and moral philosophers."
— Peter J. Paris
Homrighausen Professor of Christian Social Ethics
Princeton Theological Seminary

"Robert Franklin is the only scholar to capture in a single volume the rich tradition of moral, political, and theological reflection bequeathed by Booker T. Washington, W. E. B DuBois, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King Jr. Liberating Visions is a rich, provocative, and highly readable volume—one that will be of enduring value to all who advocate and struggle for human fulfillment and the just society."
— Lewis V. Baldwin
Assistant Professor of Religion
Vanderbilt University

Table of Contents


  1. Booker T. Washington and the Adaptive Person
    The Adaptive Person
    Biographical Sketch
    Conception of Human Fulfillment
    The Just Society

  2. W.E.B. Du Bois and the Strenuous Person
    The Strenuous Person
    Biographical Sketch
    Conception of Human Fulfillment
    The Just Society

  3. Malcolm X and the Defiant Person
    The Defiant Person
    Biographical Sketch
    Conception of Human Fulfillment
    The Just Society

  4. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Integrative Person
    The Integrative Person
    Biographical Sketch
    Conception of Human Fulfillment
    The Just Society

  5. America's Public Moralists: Testing Their Visions