Arc of Justice

Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In these words, Dr. King riffed on a message delivered by American Transcendentalist Theodore Parker: that the “moral universe” bends toward justice.

Attorney General Eric Holder argued that the arc bends toward justice because people pull it that way. How might we, then, help to shape a just universe? What is this justice? Is it metaphysical, transcending divisions of race, class, gender? Does it transcend time, such that it includes Socrates’s expansive “justice,” which takes into account the self, society, and the interaction between the two? How does societal and technological change impact justice?

Is society (local, global) more or less just now than it was in the past? How far off is the world where little black children, to paraphrase King, are judged justly and share the same opportunities as other children? What does education look like in this just universe, to return to a question Plato’s Socrates asks in Republic? Where are the arts in such a world? And what are our obstacles to getting there?

The Institute

The Arc of Justice Institute is an imaginative space, wherein we creatively envision the world not as it is but as it could be. We grapple with King’s hermeneutics — theology, ethics, the arts, leadership, and the law — and add others — technology and business — to understand what tools and technologies we need as we craft our moral universe.

Arc of Justice is committed to the follow areas of focus:


  • and race
  • and the arts
  • and law
  • and the sciences


  • and education
  • and business/commercial enterprises



  • as a precursor to or byproduct of justice
  • as an emotional and moral arc
  • role of the humanities in
  • role of the arts in

The goal of the Arc of Justice Institute is to support an ongoing intellectual community engaged with contemporary ethical or moral challenges.

Every year, the Arc of Justice will fund one project that offers interdisciplinary perspectives. Project Teams propose a question they would like to address and their methodological approach. $16,000 will be allocated to the selected Team to fund the project. Each Team is also responsible for producing an outcome of their project. Examples of outcomes include an essay (e.g., scholarly, commercial, or journalistic), an artistic production (e.g. a composition, play, or visual), a conference presentation, a website, online resource, or marketable project, etc.

Project Teams

We seek broad, interdisciplinary teams (4-6 members) constituted by faculty and/or staff. Project teams must include at least three members of the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Richmond. Each team (4-6 members) must include one University of Richmond A&S Summer Research Student Fellow whose research will be funded by either the Richmond Guarantee, A&S, or by the Institute.

Application Process & Project Timeline

The selected project team is expected to work on the project over the course of the summer and academic year. Incoming and outgoing teams are expected to make public presentation in April of each year, where they will offer preliminary expectations and final outcomes, respectively. A concise report and a final budget reflecting actual costs is due upon completion of each project.

Selection will be made by the Dean of the School of Arts & Sciences and a small administrative review committee.

Please contact the Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences ( for further information and with any questions.