Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

John Bukowczyk


This dissertation consists of a biography of Archbishop Iakovos, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North and South America from 1959 to 1996, and the role he played in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, his continuing advocacy for human rights, and his vision for a humanistically Greek, theologically Orthodox Christian, and socially just society. The fundamental research question that I sought to answer was why Archbishop Iakovos went to Selma in March of 1965 and participated in a memorial service/civil rights demonstration. What were the influences and circumstances that prompted him, a religious leader of an almost exclusively white ethnic church, to join the African American civil rights movement in the 1960s and to continue to advocate for human rights until his demise in April 2005? How did Iakovos’s identity as a Greek émigré from Turkey, an immigrant to America, and later a United States citizen evolve, and how did he seek to transform the identity of Greek Americans to accomplish his goal of social justice for society?

I argue that the four foundational influences dialectically interacted with Archbishop Iakovos’s evolving identity from émigré to immigrant to United States citizen to citizen of the world, which prompted his civil and human rights activism and contributed to his ultimate vision


of a socially just society and world. These four influences were his conviction to the classical Greek ideals of freedom, reason, the pursuit of truth, justice, and equality, his Orthodox Christian belief in the inherent, divinely bestowed dignity that each human being possesses, the history of an oppressed Greek people and discriminated Greek American immigrants, and his personal experience of bigotry and religious persecution growing up in Turkey.