Robert M. Franklin, Jr.

James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor in Moral Leadership
Robert M. Franklin, Jr.
Phone: 404.727.4176
    • PhD, University of Chicago, 1985
    • MDiv, Harvard University, 1978
    • BA, Morehouse College, 1975

    In his position as the inaugural James T. and Berta R. Laney Chair in Moral Leadership at Candler, The Rev. Dr. Robert M. Franklin, Jr., challenges students to explore the concept of moral leadership in the 21st century in different cultures and contexts in the United States and around the world. Now in his second term at Emory, Franklin is a former Presidential Distinguished Professor of Social Ethics and a senior fellow at the Center for the Study of Law and Religion, both at Emory, and was also the founding director of Candler’s Black Church Studies program from 1989 to 1995.

    In addition to his role at Candler, which he began in 2014, Franklin is a senior advisor to the Emory University president, as well as for Community and Diversity at Emory. He was director of the religion department at The Chautauqua Institution from 2014-2017, president of Morehouse College from 2007-2012, and president of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta from 1997-2002. In 2016, Franklin was named to the Human Rights Campaign’s project council on expanding LGBTQ equality and inclusion efforts at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He is on the board of Demos and on the Council of Past HBCU Presidents, and a member of several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Religion and the Society of Christian Ethics.

    One of the nation’s foremost public theologians, Franklin has authored four books: Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination (Orbis, 2020); Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities (Fortress, 2007); Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis (Fortress, 1997); and Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought (Fortress, 1990). He co-authored From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate (Westminster John Knox, 2001). He also penned the foreword to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail, reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012.  

    Franklin is an ordained minister in both the American Baptist Churches USA and the Church of God in Christ.

    Selected Publications

    • Faculty Publication
    • Faculty Publication
    • Faculty Publication


    Moral Leadership: Integrity, Courage, Imagination, Orbis Press, 2020

    Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope to African American Communities, Fortress Press, 2007

    Co-author,From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate, Second Edition, Westminster John Knox Press, 2000

    Another Day's Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis, Fortress Press, 1997

    Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought, Fortress Press, 1989

    Chapters and Articles

    Co-author, “The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in Cultivating the Next Generation of Social Justice and Public Service-Oriented Moral Leaders During the Racial Reckoning and COVID-19 Pandemics,” in American Journal of Community Psychology, January 20, 2023.

    "RFK's Still a Leadership Role Model for Youth," in Atlanta Journal-Constitution,June 08, 2018

    "Rehabilitating Democracy: Restoring Civil Rights and Leading the Next Human Rights Revolution," in Journal of Law and Religion, Cambridge University Press, October 01, 2015

    "Puncturing the Myths: The Legitimization of Inequality," in Inequality Matters: The Growing Economic Divide in America and Its Poisonous Consequences, The New Press, January 01, 2005

    "Healthy Marriages in Low-Income African American Communities, Part 1," Annie E. Casey Foundation, January 01, 2004

    "Tough Love: How Religion Enhances and Complicates American Public Life," in Perspectives on Leadership, University of Virginia Press, January 01, 2003

    "Great Preaching, Awesome Music, and Revolutionary Action: The Mind, Movement, and Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr.," in Princeton Seminary Bulletin, vol. 23, no. 2, Princeton Theological Seminary, January 02, 2002

    "A Theological Consideration of Non-conformism: Discrimination Against Gays and Lesbians, Blacks, and the Poor," in Faith Leaders on Inter-group Relations: Perspectives and Challenges, The National Conference for Community and Justice, January 01, 2002

    Selected Awards

    Peter Gomes Award, Harvard Divinity School, 2018

    Alumnus of the Year, University of Chicago Divinity School, 2010

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Swarthmore College, 2010

    Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters, Bates College, 2009

    AP, From MLK to today, the March on Washington highlights the evolution of activism by Black churches (August 22, 2023)

    AP, "Some critics see trump's behavior as un-Christian. His conservative Christian backers see a hero" (July 21, 2023)

    Deseret News, "Can America become one big happy family before her 250th birthday?" (July 2, 2021)

    GPB Political Rewind,"A Year After Pledges And Promises, Have Companies Delivered On Workplace Equity?" (June 15, 2021)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitutions, "Sex abuse scandal at Zacharias ministry forces staff cuts, new direction" (March 13, 2021)

    WABE, "Local Religious Leaders Discuss New PBS Documentary About The Black Church" (February 16, 2021)

    CNN, "I've lived in both Americas. Most people everywhere don't want to hate each other" (January 20, 2021)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Warnock wants to keep preaching on Sundays; can he?" (January 8, 2021)

    The Takeaway, "Tracking the White Extremists Involved in Insurrection at the Capitol" (January 7, 2021)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Senate race puts Ebenezer, Black church traditions in spotlight" December 30, 3020

    Emory Magazine, "Voices for equity and justice" (Fall/Winter 2020)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Opinion: Making the case for moral leadership and changing our politics" (September 30, 2020)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Opinion: A former Morehouse president campaigns as a John Lewis disciple" (August 11, 2020)

    Associated Press,"7 seek to follow Lewis in House, but long-term prospects dim" (July 31, 2020)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Columbia Theological Seminary takes steps to atone for racial past" (July 23, 2020)

    Deseret News, "Can Americans live up to the promise of America?" (June 27, 2020)

    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Opinion: Renaissance of moral leadership needed now" (June 13, 2020)

    Emory News Center, "Franklin’s book on moral leadership explores urgent public need" (April 14, 2020)

    Associated Press, "Virus forces religions to improvise, isolate for holidays" (March 31, 2020)

    Associated Press, "Admissions Scandal Unfolds Amid Cynicism About Moral Values" (March 15, 2019)

    Thomas White Currie Lectures at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Winter 2019:
    "Moral Agency and Moral Leadership"
    "Moral Leadership: An Invitation to Adventure"
    "Moral Leadership and the Common Good"

    "The Vocation of Friendship" - Commencement Speaker, Dakota Wesleyan University, May 6, 2018

    Leadership by Example, Harvard Divinity School feature article on Robert Franklin as a 2018 Gomes Honoree, March 29, 2018.

    Sermon: "The Vocation of Argument – (Psalm 22:1-5)" - Lester Randall Preaching Fellowship, Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, October 24, 2017

    Keynote: "Preaching and Social Therapeutics" - The Lester Randall Preaching Fellowship, Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, October 24, 2017

    Robert Franklin looks back on four years of moral, civic leadership as he prepares for final sermon, The Chautauquan Daily, August 25, 2017

    Service of Word and Table, Cannon Chapel, January 17, 2017

    "The Long March for Civil Rights in America" - Tangier Forum for Global Studies, March 24, 2016

    "No One is Beyond Redemption: A Candler Conversation on Capital Punishment and the Scheduled Execution of Kelly Gissendaner" - Candler School of Theology, September 18, 2015

    "The Vocation of Argument" - Fall Convocation, Cannon Chapel, August 27, 2015

    "Lent as a Season of Repentance, Reconciliation and Renewal" - Candler Practical Ministry Webinars, February 26, 2015

    "From Here to There: Dr. King's Vision, Our Current Reality and the Way Forward" - Dean's Lecture, Candler School of Theology, January 21, 2015

    Service of Word, Cannon Chapel, October 2, 2014

    Selected Courses

    Christianity and Politics

    Moral Leadership in International Perspectives, South Africa Travel Seminar

    Principles and Practices of Moral Leadership

    Religion, Ethics, and Civil Rights