Date of Award

Summer 7-26-2016

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in American Studies (MAST)


Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Dr. Jaime Cruz-Ortiz

Second Advisor

Dr. Seneca Vaught


This study discusses the significance of “grounding” social activism in religious and cross cultural dialogue using the understudied relationship between Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Latino theologian Justo González. Dr. González was the translator for King during his visit to Puerto Rico in 1965 with FOR (Fellowship of Reconciliation). González is a Cuban American Methodist who has written more than 50 books and 300 articles in the field of Hispanic theology. Additionally, González founded the first academic journal dedicated to the impact of Latino theology, known as Apuntes. This resulted in him being considered among the prominent voices of Hispanic Theology in the 21st century and a leading scholar in U.S Latino theology, church history and contextualizing Christianity within the Hispanic experience.

This study examines how Dr. Justo González’s and Dr. Martin Luther King’s mutual interactions led to a mutual shaping of thought, as both men shared extensive parallels in their religious thoughts and personal experiences. Both King and González were theologians and both of them chose pacifism in light of the examples of their fathers. This process of development was explored using several oral interviews with Dr. González. In the existing literature on liberation theology, Latino/a Studies, and coalitions between the black and brown freedom struggles, few works mention Justo González or the ways in which Hispanic theologians were impacted by King. The life of Justo González is an example of how cross-cultural relationships developed and were mutually beneficial for both African American and Latino/a communities.