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The Unknown Martin Luther (Michael) King, Jr.

We all know about the “I Have a Dream” speech and the human rights struggle Martin Luther King led against American racism and injustice, but there is much more to the King story. For one, Martin wasn't his name at birth. He was born Michael King Jr., after his father. He went to Boston University and earned a doctor of philosophy degree in addition to two bachelor's degrees. When Dr. King was a teenager, he won an oratory competition in Georgia for speaking on the subject of "The Negro and the Constitution." This proved that Dr. King was natural at public speaking. As indicated by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, he slammed the disconnected idea of freedom in the US Constitution about the way Black people were actually being treated in America in an undemocratic way.King learned at a very early age about the white supremacy problem in America. As a kid, his white friend unexpectedly refused to play with him, and in his autobiography, he acknowledged at that point, his spirit was becoming keen on battling white supremacy. American society was based on white supremacy, and still is to a major degree, but the oppressors of human beings thought this would quell opposition to their regime of racism, but America and white racists were in for a surprise. Dr. King was enrolled in the 1st grade at age 5, which did not meet the school's entrance rules, so he was removed. However, …

We all know about the “I Have a Dream” speech and the human rights struggle Martin Luther King led against American racism and injustice, but there is much more to the King story. For one, Martin wasn’t his name at birth. He was born Michael King Jr., after his father. He went to Boston University and earned a doctor of philosophy degree in addition to two bachelor’s degrees. When Dr. King was a teenager, he won an oratory competition in Georgia for speaking on the subject of “The Negro and the Constitution.” This proved that Dr. King was natural at public speaking. As indicated by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, he slammed the disconnected idea of freedom in the US Constitution about the way Black people were actually being treated in America in an undemocratic way.

King learned at a very early age about the white supremacy problem in America. As a kid, his white friend unexpectedly refused to play with him, and in his autobiography, he acknowledged at that point, his spirit was becoming keen on battling white supremacy. American society was based on white supremacy, and still is to a major degree, but the oppressors of human beings thought this would quell opposition to their regime of racism, but America and white racists were in for a surprise. Dr. King was enrolled in the 1st grade at age 5, which did not meet the school’s entrance rules, so he was removed. However, due to his intelligence, he was able to skip both the first and last years of high school.

Dr. King was accepted at Morehouse College at age 15, finishing a four-year college education in social science and receiving his Bachelor’s degree. Before this, he worked at the Atlanta Journal and became the distribution center’s youngest manager at age 13. He had a strong work ethic. Dr. King wasn’t always set on following in his father’s footsteps to become a Baptist minister. King was a critical thinker, sometimes getting him into trouble, even at church. 

He mentioned in his autobiography, “At the age of 13, I shocked my Sunday school class by denying the bodily resurrection of Jesus.” However, he found that religion could be a powerful tool. This occurred after he took a Bible lesson with Dr. George D. Kelsey, who inspired King to use ministry as a channel for social justice in the war against segregation. Dr. Kelsey, a scholar and educator, persuaded King to follow a vocation in service to God, empowering him to attend to civil and human rights issues.

On top of receiving two Bachelor’s degrees, a Sociology degree from Morehouse College, and a degree in divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary, King did not stop there and received his Ph.D. from Boston University in 1955, making him a doctor of philosophy. This is how he became Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Honorary degrees are not academic, but they are important as they indicate that the community, be it educational or otherwise, has faith in your intellectual and service abilities. Additionally, Dr. King received as many as 20 such honors from organizations and prestigious institutions such as Howard University, Yale, Wesleyan, and many other higher-education institutions. 

Throughout the vast majority of his life, Dr. King had an unquenchable desire to read and learn. He valued the philosophical works of Socrates, Rousseau, and Aristotle. However, of the multitude of philosophical works, he read, the one that affected him more than the others was “Civil Disobedience” by Henry David Thoreau. This work profoundly affected his ideas and actions, as he wrote in his autobiography. Thoreau believed that no one should cooperate with an evil system, and this idea significantly impacted his worldview. It likewise motivated his faith in his own capacity to sanction social change at the singular level. This was the idea of many others before King and Thoreau, as John Brown believed that the Bible was an inspiration to oppose slavery. The same was true of Nat Turner and David Walker in the 1800s, the American heroes who led or inspired insurrections against slavery. The evil system for King was that of racism, which governed the actions of many leaders and influenced public policy to the degree that King recognized America as a country that followed racist values in law, custom, and tradition.

King’s family moved from Atlanta to Montgomery, Alabama, when the well-known 1956 bus boycott with Rosa Parks occurred. He initially went against the boycott, but grassroots organizers convinced him otherwise. Dr. King was not always the visionary we think him to be, but he did listen to others. He also listened to leaders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC, who convinced him to oppose the war in Vietnam. 



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