Martin Luther King Studies Student Spotlight:

Did you know that Union Institute & University offers one of the few Ph.D. specializations in Dr. Martin Luther King Studies in the country? In recognition of this distinct honor, and in remembrance of Dr. King, this month we asked a few MLK students to share how they apply Dr. King’s philosophies in everyday life.

Debroah Richardson Deborah Richardson

I grew up in Atlanta during the civil rights movement and lived on the same street with Dr. King’s parents—Rev. and Mrs. Martin Luther King, Sr. The work I do now is a direct reflection of what I saw and learned growing up. I often use Dr. King’s quote in my presentations: Philanthropy is commendable, but it must not cause the philanthropist to overlook the circumstances of economic injustice which make philanthropy necessary.

It is not enough to do good work, but to change the systemic conditions that contribute to the situation. My work in addressing human trafficking has shifted, for instance, from rescue and restoration of the victims, to instead address the legislative and cultural conditions that facilitate the demand to purchase children for sex. There would not be a need for homeless shelters if a living wage, access to healthcare and safe housing is recognized as a human right—which it is.”


Deborah Richardson is the Executive Vice President of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights, leading its fundraising and program development. She was Chief Program Officer at Women’s Funding Network in San Francisco, CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation, Director of Program Development for Fulton County Juvenile Court, founding Executive Director of the Juvenile Justice Fund (now YouthSpark) and Managing Director of the National Black Arts Festival.

She has been honored by many organizations for her community service. Most recently she received the "Lives of Commitment Award" from Auburn Theological Seminary and The Pathbreaker Award from Shared Hope International. She is a nationally recognized leader on social justice for women and girls and an advocate to end child sex trafficking. She has designed leading programs for girls victimized by sexual trafficking and testified before Congress.

Deborah is a graduate of St. Mary's College of California with a Masters of Arts in Leadership.

Learn more about Union Institute & University's MLK Studies Specialization

Read more MLK student spotlights:
Cheri Scott
Mildred Van Bergen