courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love, in the faith
that it is better to be the recipient of violence than the inflicter of it,
since the latter only multiplies the existence of violence and bitter-
ness in the universe, while the former may develop a sense of shame
in the opponent, and thereby bring about a transformation and
change of heart.
In spite of the fact that I found many things to be desired in
Niebuhr's philosophy, there were several points at which he con-
structively influenced my thinking. Niebuhr's great contribution to
theology is that he has refuted the false optimism characteristic of a
great segment of Protestant liberalism. Moreover, Niebuhr has ex-
traordinary insight into human nature, especially the behavior of
nations and social groups. He is keenly avare of the complexity of
human motives and of the relation between morality and power. His
theology is a persistent reminder of the reality of sin on every level
of man's existence. These elements in Niebuhr's thinking helped me
to recognize the illusions of a superficial optimism concerning
human nature and the dangers of a false idealism. While I still be-
lieved in man's potential for good, Niebuhr made me realize his
potential for evil as well. Moreover, Niebuhr helped me to recognize
the complexity of man's social involvement and the glaring reality
of collective evil.
Many pacifists, I felt, failed to see this. All too many had an
unwarranted optimism concerning man and leaned unconsciously
toward self-righteousness. After reading Niebuhr, I tried to arrive at
a realistic pacifism. In other words, I came to see the pacifist position
not as sinless but as the lesser evil in the circumstances. I do not
claim to be free from the moral dilemmas that the Christian non-
pacifist confronts, but I am convinced that the church cannot be
silent while mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. I felt
that the pacifist would have a greater appeal if he did not claim
to be free from the moral dilemmas that the Christian non-pacifist
I anticipated graduating from Crozer in May 1951. For a number of
years I had been desirous of teaching in a college or a school of
religion. Realizing the necessity for scholastic attainment in the
teaching profession, I felt that graduate work would give me a better
grasp of my field. I had a general knowledge of my field, but I had
not done adequate research to meet the scholarly issues which I
would confront in this area. I felt that a few years of intensified study
in a graduate school would give me a thorough grasp of knowledge
in my field.
My particular interest in Boston University could be summed up
in two statements. First, my thinking in philosophical areas had been
greatly influenced by some of the faculty members there, particularly
"A CONCEPTION AND IMPRESSION OF RELIGION DRAWN FROM DR. EDGAR S.
BRIGHTMAN'S BOOK ENTITLED A PHILOSOPHY OF RELIGION"
It is religion that gives meaning to life. It is religion that gives mean-
ing to the Universe. It is religion that is the greatest incentive for the
good hfe. It is religion which gives us the assurance that all that is high
noble and valuable will be conserved. Such fruits of religion I find to be
its greatest virtues, and certainly they cannot be ignored by any sane
man. I must now conclude that any atheistic view is both philosophically
unsound and practically disadvantageous. How I long now for that reli-
gious experience which Dr. Brightman so cogently speaks of throughout
his book. It seems to be an experience, the lack of which life becomes
dull and meaningless. As I reflect on the matter, however, I do remem-
ber moments that I have been awe awakened; there have been times
that I have been carried out of myself by something greater than myself
and to that something I gave myself. Has this great something been
God? Maybe after all I have been religious for a number of years, and
am now only becoming aware of it.
From a course paper submitted at Crozer Seminary, March 28, 1951
Dr. Edgar S. Brightman. For this reason, I longed for the possibility
of studying under him. Secondly, one of my professors at Crozer
was a graduate of Boston University, and his great influence over me
turned my eyes toward his former school. I had gotten some valu-
able information about Boston University from him, and I was con-
vinced that there were definite advantages there for me.
"O THAT I KNEW WHERE I MIGHT FIND HIM"
I can remember very vividly how in my recent seminary days, I was
able to strengthen my spiritual life through communing with nature. The
seminary campus is a beautiful sight, particularly so in the spring. And
it was at this time of year that I made it a practice to go out to the edge
of the campus every afternoon for at least an hour to commune with na-
ture. On the side of the campus ran a little tributary from the Delaware
river. Every day I would sit on the edge of the campus by the side of the
river and watch the beauties of nature. My friend, in this experience, I
saw God, I saw him in birds of the air, the leaves of the tree, the move-
ment of the rippling waves. . . . Sometimes I go out at night and look up
at the stars as they bedeck the heavens hke shining silver pins sticking
in a magnificent blue pin cushion. There is God. Sometimes I watch the
sun as it gets up in the morning and paints its technicolor across the
eastern horizon. There is God. Sometimes 1 watch the moon as it walks
across the sky as a queen walks across her masterly mansion. There is
God. Henry Ward Beecher was right; "Nature is God's tongue."
Reminiscence about Crozer years, ca. 1953
give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little
gods that are here today and gone tomorrow. But to God who is the
same yesterday, today, and forever.
SEPTEMBER 13, 1951
King enters Boston University's School of Theology
FEBRUARY 25. 1953
Academic advisor Edgar S. Brightman dies; L. Harold DeWolf
becomes nev/ advisor
JUNE 5, 1955
Receives doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University
The next stage of my intellectual pilgrimage to nonviolence came
during my doctoral studies at Boston University. Here I had the
opportunity to talk to many exponents of nonviolence, both stu-
dents and visitors at the campus.
Boston University School of Theology, under the influence of
Dean Walter Muelder and Professor Allan Knight Chalmers, had a
deep sympathy for the pacifist position. Both Dean Muelder and
Dr. Chalmers had a passion for social justice. One never got the
impression that this passion stemmed from a superficial optimism
concerning human nature, but from a deep faith in the possibilities
of human beings when they allowed themselves to become co-
workers with God. My association with men like that also caused me
to deepen my concern, and of course many of the studies I contin-
ued to make concerning the philosophy and theory of nonviolence
naturally influenced my thinking.
Theologically I found myself still holding to the liberal position. I
had come to see more than ever before that there were certain endur-
ing qualities in liberalism which all of the vociferous noises of funda-
mentalism and neo-orthodoxy could never destroy. However, while at
Boston, I became much more sympathetic towards the neo-orthodox
position than I had been in previous years. I do not mean that I accept
neo-orthodoxy as a set of doctrines, but I did see in it a necessary
corrective for a liberalism that had become all too shallow and that
too easily capitulated to modern culture. Neo-orthodoxy certainly had
the merit of calling us back to the depths of Christian faith.
I also came to see that Reinhold Niebuhr had overemphasized
the corruption of human nature. His pessimism concerning human
nature was not balanced by an optimism concerning divine nature.
He was so involved in diagnosing man's sickness of sin that he over-
looked the cure of grace.
I studied philosophy and theology at Boston University under Edgar
S. Brightman and L. Harold DeWolf I did most of my work under
Dr. DeWolf, who is a very dear friend of mine, and, of course, I was
greatly influenced by him and by Dr. Brightman, whom I had the
privilege to study with before he passed on. It was mainly under
these teachers that I studied Personalistic philosophy—the theory
that the clue to the meaning of ultimate reality is found in personal-
ity. This personal idealism remains today my basic philosophical po-
sition. Personalism's insistence that only personality—finite and
infinite—is ultimately real strengthened me in two convictions: it
MEMORIES OF HOUSING BIAS WHILE IN GRADUATE SCHOOL
I remember very well trying to find a place to live. I went into place
after place where there were signs that rooms were for rent. They were
iox rent until they found out I was a Negro, and suddenly they had just
Quoted in the Boston Globe, April 23, 1965
gave me metaphysical and philosophical grounding for the idea of a
personal God, and it gave me a metaphysical basis for the dignity
and worth of all human personality.
Just before Dr. Brightman's death, I began studying the philosophy
of Hegel v«th him. This course proved to be both rewarding and stim-
ulating. Although the course was mainly a study of Hegel's monumen-
tal work. Phenomenology of Mind, I spent my spare time reading his
Philosophy of History and Philosphy of Right. There were points in Heg-
el's philosophy that I strongly disagreed with. For instance, his absolute
idealism was rationally unsound to me because it tended to swallow up
the many in the one. But there were other aspects of his thinking that
I found stimulating. His contention that "truth is the whole" led me to
a philosophical method of rational coherence. His analysis of the dia-
lectical process, in spite of its shortcomings, helped me to see that
growth comes through struggle.
My work at Boston University progressed very well. Both Dr.
DeWolf and Dr. Brightman were quite impressed. I completed my
residence work and began the process of writing my dissertation. My
dissertation title was "A Comparison of the Conception of God in
the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman." The con-
cept of God was chosen because of the central place which it occu-
pies in any religion and because of the ever-present need to interpret
and clarify the God concept. Tillich and Wieman were chosen be-
cause they represent different types of theology and because each of
them had an increasing influence upon theological and philosophi-
In 1954 I ended my formal training with divergent intellectual
forces converging into a positive social philosophy. One of the main
tenets of this philosophy was the conviction that nonviolent resis-
tance was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed
people in their quest for social justice. Interestingly enough, at this
time I had merely an intellectual understanding and appreciation of
the position, with no firm determination to organize it in a socially
"Rediscovering Lost Values"
The thing that we need in the world today, is a group of men and
women who will stand up for right and he opposed to wrong, wherever
it is. A group of people who have come to see that some things are
wrong, whether they're never caught up with. Some things are right,
whether nobody sees you doing them or not.
All I'm trying to say is, our world hinges on moral foundations.
God has made it so! God has made the universe to be based on a moral
law.. . .
This universe hinges on moral foundations. There is something in
this universe that justifies Carlyle in saying,
"No lie can live forever."
There is something in this universe that justifies William Cullen
Bryant in saying,
"Truth, crushed to earth, will rise again."
There is something in this universe that justifies James Russell Low-
ell in saying,
"Truth forever on the scaffold.
Wrong forever on the throne.
With that scajfold sways the future.
Behind the dim unknown stands God,
Within the shadow keeping watch above his own."
There is something in this universe that justifies the biblical writer
"You shall reap what you sow."
As a young man with most of my life ahead of me, I decided early
to give my life to something eternal and absolute. Not to these little
I'm not going to put my ultimate faith in the little gods that can he
destroyed in an atomic age, but the God who has been our help in ages
past, and our hope for years to come, and our shelter in the time of
storm, and our eternal home. That's the God that I'm putting my ulti-
mate faith in. . . . The God that I'm talking about this morning is the
God of the universe and the God that will last through the ages. If we
are to go forward this morning, we've got to go hack and find that God.
That is the God that demands and commands our ultimate allegiance.
If we are to go forward, we must go back and rediscover these pre-
cious values—that all reality hinges on moral foundations and that all
reality has spiritual control.
loyalty neither life nor work would bring fulfillment. She has given
me words of consolation when I needed them and a well-ordered
home where Christian love is a reality.
APRIL 27, 1927
Coretta Scott born in Heiberger, Alabama
Coretta and Martin meet in Boston
JUNE 18, 1953
King Sr. performs marriage in Marion, Alabama
It was in Boston that I met and fell in love with the attractive
singer Coretta Scott, whose gentle manner and air of repose did
not disguise her lively spirit. I had met quite a few girls in Boston,
but none that I was particularly fond of.
I was about to get cynical. So I asked Mary Powell, a friend from
Atlanta who was also a student at the New England Conservatory of
Music, "Do you know any nice, attractive young ladies?"
Mary Powell introduced us and I was fortunate enough to get
Coretta's telephone number. We met over the telephone: "This is
M. L. King, Jr. A mutual friend of ours told me about you and gave
me your telephone number. She said some very wonderful things
about you, and I'd like very much to meet you and talk to you."
We talked awhile. "You know every Napoleon has his Waterloo.
I'm like Napoleon. I'm at my Waterloo, and I'm on my knees. I'd
like to meet you and talk some more. Perhaps we could have lunch
tomorrow or something like that."
She agreed to see me. "I'll come over and pick you up. I have a
green Chevy that usually takes ten minutes to make the trip from
B.U., but tomorrow I'll do it in seven."
She talked about things other than music. I never will forget, the
first discussion we had was about the question of racial and eco-
nomic injustice and the question of peace. She had been actively
engaged in movements dealing with these problems.
After an hour, my mind was made up. I said, "So you can do
something else besides sing? You've got a good mind also. You have
everything I ever wanted in a woman. We ought to get married
I didn't want a wife I couldn't communicate with. I had to have
a wife who would be as dedicated as I was. I wish I could say that I
led her down this path, but I must say we went down it together
because she was as actively involved and concerned when we met as
she is now.
I told my mother, "Coretta is going to be my wife." On June 18,
1953, we were married. Although we had returned to Marion to be
married by my father on the Scotts' spacious lawn, it was in Boston
that we began our married life together.
Coretta Scott is a native of the South. She is from Marion, Alabama,
a talent for music from her mother, Bernice Scott, as well as the
strength of quiet determination, she had then gone on with the aid
of a scholarship to work her way through the New England Conser-
vatory in Boston. She wanted to be a concert singer. She was a
mezzo-soprano and I'm sure she would have gone on into this area
if a Baptist preacher hadn't interrupted her life.
Coretta's father, Obie Scott, a short, stocky man of dark com-
plexion, is a strong and courageous man. People are strongly at-
tracted to him because of his warm personality. He loves people and
is always ready to help someone in need. Although reared on a farm,
Obie Scott was always concerned about going into business for him-
self. He finally succeeded and operated a trucking business, a combi-
nation filling station and grocery store, and a chicken farm. Despite
the reprisals and physical threats of his white competitors, he at-
tempted to get ahead in these various businesses and dared to make
a decent living for his family. He has never been an Uncle Tom, but
he had to suffer certain insults and even humiliation in order to
survive in his community. The amazing thing is that he came
through all of this with his courage undaunted, without becoming
Darling, I miss you so much. In fact, much too much for my own
good. I never realized that you were such an intimate part of my life. My
life without you is like a year without a spring time which comes to give
illumination and heat to the atmosphere saturated by the dark cold
breeze of winter. . . . O excuse me, my darling. I didn't mean to go off
on such a poetical and romantic flight. But how else can we express the
deep emotions of life other than in poetry? Isn't love too ineffable to be
grasped by the cold calculating hands of intellect?
By the way (to turn to something more intellectual) I have just com-
pleted Bellamy's Looking Backward. It was both stimulating and fascinat-
ing. There can be no doubt about it. Bellamy had the insight of a social
prophet as well as the fact finding mind of the social scientist. I wel-
comed the book because much of its content is in line with my basic
ideas. I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my
economic theory than capitalistic. And yet I am not so opposed to capi-
talism that I have failed to see its relative merits. It started out with a
noble and high motive, viz., to block the trade monopolies of nobles, but
like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting
against. So today capitalism has out-lived its usefulness. It has brought
about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to
the classes. So 1 think Bellamy is right in seeing the gradual decline of
I think you noticed that Bellamy emphasized that the change would
b evolutionary rather than revolutionary. This, it seems to me, is the
most sane and ethical way for social change to take place.
Atlanta, July 18, 1952
Even in the early days of our courtship, she used to say, "You remind
me so much of my father." I don't suppose any compliment could
be more inflating to the male ago.
Coretta's mother, Bernice Scott, is quite different from her father
in many respects. In contrast to his overflowing personality she is
rather shy. She is an attractive woman, fair in complexion, possess-
ing narrow features and long black straight hair. In knowing her,
one soon detects that she is a person of courage, determination, and
amazing internal strength. She is deeply devoted to her family, al-
ways willing to sacrifice her needs to those of her children. More
than anyone else, she taught Coretta her moral and ethical values,
not by what she said alone, but also by her example.
"Staying with the struggle to the end"
My devoted wife has been a constant source of consolation to me
through all the difficulties. In the midst of the most tragic experi-
ences, she never became panicky or overemotional. I have come to
see the real meaning of that rather trite statement: a wife can either
make or break a husband. My wife was always stronger than I was
through the struggle. While she had certain natural fears and anxie-
ties concerning my welfare, she never allowed them to hamper my
active participation in the movement. Corrie proved to be that type
of wife with qualities to make a husband when he could have been
so easily broken. In the darkest moments, she always brought the
light of hope. I am convinced that if I had not had a wife with the
fortitude, strength, and calmness of Corrie, I could not have with-
stood the ordeals and tensions surrounding the movement.
She saw the greatness of the movement and had a unique will-
ingness to sacrifice herself for its continuation. If I have done any-
thing in this struggle, it is because I have had behind me and at my
side a devoted, understanding, dedicated, patient companion in the
person of my wife. I can remember times when I sent her away for
safety. I would look up a few days later, and she was back home,
because she wanted to be there.
July 23, 1954
How goes everything? I received your special and naturally I was over-
joyed to hear from you. I was happy to know that the Women's Day went over
in a big way. Your analysis of Gardner's sermon was very good. I see you are
a very keen observer.
I am doing quite well, and studying hard as usual. I have plenty of privacy
here and nobody to bother me.
All of your friends that I have seen are doing fine. Everybody asks about
We had our Philosophy Club Monday night and it was well attended.
How are all of the folks?