As I have stated before my late mentor Jesse was a close and long time friend of Dr. King. As a part of my ELM education I did write a paper about Dr. King. As an American Baptist Dr. King is a very important man to our denomination and most likely the most famous American Baptist Pastor of all time.
May this essay stand as a tribute to both Dr. King and my friend Jesse's memory.
God's Eternal & Undivided Blessings to you all,
On January 15, 1929 at 501 Auburn Avenue N.E., in Atlanta Georgia, Martin Luther King, Jr. was born at the home of his parents the Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King. Martin was named Michael King at birth but his name was changed to Martin Luther around the age of six. He was one of three children born to the King family, his siblings were Christine King Farris and the Reverend Alfred Daniel Williams King.
Martin Junior's maternal grandfather the Reverend A.D. Williams was a rural minister for many years prior to moving to Atlanta in 1893 to take over the ministry of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. Under his leadership the church went from around 13 members to being a prominent congregation in the Atlanta area. The Williams' had one surviving child Alberta who married Martin Luther King, Sr. in 1926 after a courtship of eight years. Upon the death of Reverend Williams, Martin Luther King, Sr. took over the Pastorate of the Ebenezer Baptist Church. It was after he stepped into the Pastorate that he changed his name from Michael King, Sr. to Martin Luther King, Sr. in honor of Martin Luther the great German Protestant Leader.
In May of 1936 Martin Jr. was baptized though he professed to it having had little impact upon him at the time. He entered public school at the age of five and later attended Booker T. Washington High School. There he was a apt student and was able to skip both the 9th and 11th grades. At the tender age of 15 he entered Morehouse College in Atlanta in 1944.
Martin Jr. questioned religion and was uncomfortable with more emotional displays of religious worship. Young Martin had originally decided against following his family vocation of the ministry much to his father's disappointment. It was during his Junior year at Morehouse that Benjamin E. Mays the President of Morehouse convinced Martin that Christianity could be used as a vehicle for social change. A subsequent class on Biblical Criticism taught by George Kelsey renewed Martin's faith, and taught him “that behind the legends and myths of the Book were many profound truths which one could not escape”. In the fall of Martin's senior year at Morehouse he informed his father of his decision to pursue the Ministry which greatly pleased his father.
During his final semester at Morehouse Martin was ordained and went on to further his Christian education at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania in 1948. It was at Crozer that my mentor the late Reverend Doctor Jesse Brown met and became a close friend of Martin. Jesse was a year behind Martin at Crozer, but roomed across the hall from him in the dormitory. Jesse impressed Martin when he learned that Jesse had spent the summer before enrolling in Crozer working in Harlem and had a great interest in Civil Rights. As a result, Jesse and Martin became good friends, they remained in contact and maintained a close friendship up until Martin's death in 1968. At Crozer Martin excelled and graduated as the valedictorian of the class of 1951.
It was in his final year at Crozer that Martin adopted Reinhold Niebbuhr as his mentor. Niebbuhr was to become perhaps the most influential individual on Martin's intellectual and spiritiual path. Upon graduating Seminary he went on to pursue his doctorate at Boston University. At Boston Martin was further influenced by his associations with Edgar Brightman and L. Harold DeWolf. Martin's studies towards his Doctorate in Systematic Theology showed little originality and even his dissertation showed outright and considerable plagerism in it's construction. What he did demonstrate was an ability to draw on and combine a wide breath of theological and philosopical thinking and express them clearly. This ability served him well in his future preaching and leadership in the Civil Rights Movement.
It was while a student at Boston Univeristy that Martin met Coretta Scott a student at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. The King's were united in marriage on June 18 of 1953 in Marion, Alabama. The King's went on to have four children, Yolanda, Martin Luther King III, Dexter Scott and Bernice. While working on his dissertation Martin Jr. took on the Pastorate on Dexter Avenue Baptist Church of Montgomery, Alabama in 1953. In 1955 Martin successfully completed his Doctorate at the young age of 25.
The now Dr. King's carreer took a major turn the afternoon of December 1, 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the Cleveland Avenue Bus. Her arrest culminated in the “Montgomery Bus Boycott”. Martin was selected on the evening of her arrest by E.D. Nixon and other black leaders in Montgomery to lead a new organization the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) in the boycott of the busing system in Montgomery by the black community. King's skill and fresh rhetoric energized the civil rights movement in Alabama and catapulted Martin into the spotlight.
The Montgomery Bus Boycott lasted 382 days and involved attacks being made upon the homes of both Dr. King and E.D. Nixon. It was a time of general intimidation and outright violence for the African American community in Montgomery, but ultimately after successful lawsuits and serious financial losses the city of Montgomery repealed their segregated public transportaion laws.
In late 1956 the United States Supreme Court ruled against the Alabama bus segregation laws in the case Browder v. Gayle. After which King sought to take his nonviolent civil rights movement to the entire South. King joined with others in January of 1957 in founding the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) of which King became the founding president. The SCLC sought to harness the moral authority and organize the power of the black churches.
King's emergence as a national leader was furthered by the 1958 release of his publication of “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story”. With prominence and fame came increased personal consequences. King's home was fire bombed in several incidents, and in 1958 while signing books Izola Ware Curry stabbed him and surgery was reguired to attend to King's injuries.
In 1959 King spent a month visiting the birthplace of Gandhi in India. Pofoundly moved by this experience King redoubled his dedication to America's civil rights struggle with the counsel of Bayard Rustin a student of Gandhi's teachings on non-violent protest. Rustin was the primary organizer of the 1963 March on Washington and was a trusted advisor and Mentor to King during this time period inspite of the fact that Rustin was himself a controversial figure. Rustin was alleged to have ties to the Communist Party of the USA and was a known homosexual and because of this King was urged by many to sever his ties to Rustin.
In early 1960 King and his young family moved to Atlanta in order to take the position of co-Pastor along with his father at Ebenezer Baptist Church and to be closer to SCLC headquarters in Atlanta. King's move to Atlanta coincided with the 'sit-in' movement in Greensboro, North Carolina. The African American students would go to racially segregated lunch counters and seat themselves in the white only areas. Once seated they would refuse to leave unless served, thus subjecting themselves to abuse both verbal and physical. The movement quickly gained traction in other cities and by August 1960 they had successfully ended segregated lunch counters in 27 southern cities.
On October 19th, 1960 Dr. King and 75 others requested service at a segregated lunch counter in Atlanta and were refused. This event resulted in King and 36 others being arrested. Atlanta's mayor arranged for the charges to be dropped however, shortly thereafter King was imprisoned for a violation of probation in regards to a traffic violation. This imprisonment affected the 1960 Presidential election when John F. Kennedy contacted King's wife Coretta with concern over Martin's harsh treatment. Kennedy's actions in securing King's release are considered by some to have been instumental in his narrow victory over Richard M. Nixon in that Presidential election.
In the early 1960's as the southern protest movement gained speed King was under increasing pressure from the more militant student activists such as the participants in the Freedom Rides. Wikipedia gives the following information concerning the 'Freedom Riders'.
1Freedom Riders were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern United States in 1961 and following years to test the United States Supreme Court decisions Boynton v. Virginia (1960) and Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946). The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C., on May 4, 1961, and was scheduled to arrive in New Orleans on May 17.
Boynton outlawed racial segregation in the restaurants and waiting rooms in terminals serving buses that crossed state lines. Five years prior to the Boynton ruling, the Interstate Commerce Commission had issued a ruling in Sarah Keys v. Carolina Coach Company that had explicitly denounced the Plessy v. Ferguson doctrine of separate but equal in interstate bus travel. The ICC failed to enforce its ruling, and Jim Crow travel laws remained in force throughout the South.
The Freedom Riders challenged this status quo by riding various forms of public transportation in the South to challenge local laws or customs that enforced segregation. The Freedom Rides, and the violent reactions they provoked, bolstered the credibility of the American Civil Rights Movement. They called national attention to the disregard for the federal law and the local violence used to enforce segregation in the southern United States. Police arrested riders for trespassing, unlawful assembly, and violating state and local Jim Crow laws, along with other alleged offenses, but they often let white mobs attack them without intervention.
- Selected one of the most outstanding personalities of the year by Time, 1957.
- Listed in Who's Who in America, 1957.
- the Spingarn Medal from NAACP, 1957.
- The Russwurm Award from the National Newspaper Publishers, 1957.
- The Second Annual Achievment -- The Guardian Association of the Police Department of New York, 1958.
- Link Magazine of New Dehli, India, listed Dr. King as one of the sixteen world leaders who had contributred most to the advancement of freedom during 1959.
- Named Man of the Year by Time, 1963.
- Named American of the Decade by Laundry, Dry Cleaning, and Die Workers International Union, 1963.
- The John Dewey Award, from the United Federation of Teachers, 1964.
- The John F. Kennedy Award, from the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago, 1964.
- The Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. At age 35, Dr. King was the youngest man, the second American, and the third black man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
- The Marcus Garvey Prize for Human Rights, presented by the Jamacian Government. (posthumously) 1968.
- The Rosa L. Parks
Award, presented by the Southern Christian Leadrship Conference.
Dr. King was awarded honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities in the United States and several foreign countries. They include the following:
- Doctor of Humane Letters, Morehouse College
- Doctor of Laws, Howard University
- Doctor of Divinity, Chicago Theological Seminary
- Doctor of Laws, Morgan State College
- Doctor of Humanities, Central State College
- Doctor of Divinity, Boston University
- Doctor of Laws, Lincoln University
- Doctor of Laws, University of Bridgeport
- Doctor of Civil Laws, Bard College
- Doctor of Letters, Keuka College
- Doctor of Divinity, Wesleyan College
- Doctor of Laws, Jewish Theological Seminary
- Doctor of Laws, Yale University
- Doctor of Divinity, Springfield College
- Doctor of Laws, Hofstra University
- Doctor of Human Letters, Oberlin College
- Doctor of Social Science, Amsterdam Free University
- Doctor of Divinity, St. Peter's College
- Doctor of Civil Law, University of New Castle Upon Tyne
- Doctor of Laws, Grinnell College, Grinnell, Iowa