In the winter of 1953 King chose his dissertation topic and enrolled in the required course Directed Study in Thesis and Dissertation Writing taught by Jannette E. Newhall.1 Working with Newhall and DeWolf, King developed a bibliography, a preliminary organizational outline, and a short introduction.2 During the summer of 1953 King contacted Wieman and Tillich to ask if they knew of any similar comparisons of their thought.3 Beyond these exploratory letters, though, the newly married King did not work on the dissertation while serving as pastor in charge of Ebenezer during the summer. After studying during the fall and winter, King passed his final comprehensive examination in February 1954 and began working extensively on the dissertation.4 On 9 April, just a few days after he accepted the call to Dexter, King’s outline was approved by the Graduate School.
In the first chapter, after explaining his choice of the topic, King reviewed his sources. In the second chapter he explored the methodologies of the two theologians. By using a “method of correlation” Tillich sought first to describe the questions generated by the human condition and then to examine the specifically Christian symbols used to answer those questions. Wieman appealed to the scientific method, using “sensory observation, experimental behavior, and rational inference” to analyze Christian beliefs. In chapters 3 and 4 King described Tillich’s and Wieman’s conceptions of God. In the fifth chapter he compared and criticized their ideas.5
King’s initial drafts of the dissertation were marked by the flawed citation practices that characterized his other academic essays and the final version of the dissertation. King appropriated virtually all of his first draft of the introduction verbatim from an article by Walter Marshall Horton.6 Newhall noted that in one of King’s footnotes he cited a source not listed in the bibliography.7 King corrected the error in later versions, but the introduction still contained several plagiarized passages.
King’s faulty citation practices were rooted in the notecards he created while conducting research on Tillich and Wieman.8 Large sections of the expository chapters are verbatim transcriptions of these notecards, in which errors he had made while creating his notes are perpetuated. In one case, although King properly quoted Tillich on the notecard, he used a section of the quotation in the dissertation without quotation marks.9 Some of the notecards were adequately paraphrased from Tillich and Wieman, but many others were nearly identical to the source. King rarely noted down proper citations as he took notes, particularly from secondary sources. After reading an author’s interpretation of a Tillich quotation, for example, King would transcribe the interpretation, the Tillich quotation, and the footnote to Tillich’s writings but would neglect to mention the secondary source. One of his most important uncredited sources was a Boston University dissertation on Tillich that DeWolf had read just three years before. In the introduction King noted his reliance on “valuable secondary sources” and acknowledged Jack Boozer’s “very fine” dissertation; thereafter, however, King obscured the extent to which he utilized this secondary source by citing it only twice.10 He also relied heavily on a review of Tillich’s Systematic Theology by Raphael Demos, King’s professor at Harvard, and on several essays in a collection entitled The Theology of Paul Tillich, underreporting these sources in his citations.11
King completed his draft of the dissertation while serving as the full-time pastor of Dexter. “I rose every morning at five-thirty and spent three hours writing the thesis,” he later wrote, “returning to it late at night for another three hours.”12 In November 1954, several months after leaving Boston, King returned to that city for consultations with DeWolf and Schilling.
DeWolf and Schilling had mostly praise for King’s draft, pointing out only minor changes necessary for their approval. In characteristically brief fashion, DeWolf returned King’s draft with very few corrections or marginal comments, praising King for succeeding “with broad learning, impressive ability and convincing mastery of the works immediately involved.” Schilling, evaluating one of his first dissertations as a professor, provided more extensive comments than DeWolf. In two instances Schilling noticed that King had improperly cited his sources by “inaccurately” quoting a Tillich text and omitting quotation marks around another paragraph. Acknowledging that the first draft was “competently done,… carefully organized and systematically developed,” Schilling promised to approve the dissertation after the appropriate changes were made.13 King incorporated many of these corrections, but made few other changes as he revised the dissertation.
After submitting the final draft sometime before the 15 April deadline, King returned to Boston to defend his work before an examining committee. Chaired by Schilling, the committee included DeWolf, Peter A. Bertocci, John H. Lavely, Richard M. Millard, and Newhall.14 On 31 May the graduate school faculty of Boston University officially voted to confer the doctorate on King at the university’s commencement on 5 June. Unable to be present for the service, King received the Ph.D. in systematic theology in absentia.
Table of Contents
1. Jannette E. Newhall (1898–1979) studied at Radcliffe and Columbia and received her Ph.D. from Boston University in 1931. After teaching at Wheaton College in Norton, Massachusetts, she worked at Andover-Harvard Theological Library and other libraries in Massachusetts. Newhall was librarian and professor of research methods, as well as Brightman’s longtime assistant, at Boston University’s School of Theology from 1949 until her retirement in 1962. Her course on research methods covered, among other things, correct citation practices and ethical use of sources. See Newhall, Syllabus, Thesis and Dissertation Writing, 4 February–22 May 1953, MLKP-MBU: Box 115.
2. See King, Draft of table of contents, 4 February—22 May 1953, MLKP-MBU: Box 114; also drafts in MLKP-MBU: Boxes 96 and 107.
3. King’s letters to Wieman and Tillich, probably written in early August, are not extant. For their replies, see Wieman to King, 14 August 1953, pp. 202–203 in this volume; and Tillich to King, 22 September 1953, pp. 203–204 in this volume.
4. See King, Qualifying examination answers, Theology of the Bible, 2 November 1953; History of Doctrine, 20 November 1953; Systematic Theology, 17 December 1953; and History of Philosophy, 24 February 1954; all published in this volume, pp. 204–210, 212–218, 228–233, and 242–247, respectively.
5. For a longer analysis of the dissertation’s content, see the Introduction, pp. 23–26 in this volume.
6. Walter Marshall Horton, “Tillich’s Role in Contemporary Theology,” in The Theology of Paul Tillich, ed. Charles W. Kegley and Robert W. Bretall (New York: Macmillian, 1952), pp. 36–37.
7. King, “Draft of chapter 1,” 4 February–22 May 1953, MLKP-MBU: Box 107.
8. It is unclear when King created these notecards. He probably wrote the bulk of them in Boston the summer of 1954 before moving to Montgomery, since many of his materials, particularly articles in scholarly journals, would not be available in Montgomery. He did, however, continue to check out library books from Boston University’s library while in Montgomery. See Florence Mitchell to King, 15 October 1954, MLKP-MBU: Box 117.
9. See King, Notecard on “Freedom,” 1948–1955, CSKC.
10. See Jack Stewart Boozer, “The Place of Reason in Paul Tillich’s Concept of God” (Ph.D. diss., Boston University, 1952). Boozer (1918–1989) received both his bachelor’s degree in philosophy (1940) and B.D. (1942) from Emory University. He entered graduate school at Boston University in 1942, but interrupted his studies to serve as an Army chaplain in Europe from 1944 to 1947. He returned to Boston in 1948 and received his Ph.D. in 1952. Boozer taught at Emory from 1950 until his retirement in 1987, serving as professor of religion and chair of the department of religion. His publications include Faith to Act (1967), coauthored with William Beardslee, and Rudolf Otto. Aufsätze zur Ethik (1981), which he edited.
11. Horton, “Tillich’s Role in Contemporary Theology,” pp. 26–47; George F. Thomas, “The Method and Structure of Tillich’s Theology,” pp. 86–105; David E. Roberts, “Tillich’s Doctrine of Man,” pp. 108–130; John Herman Randall, Jr., “The Ontology of Paul Tillich,” pp. 132–161; all in Kegley and Bretall, eds., Theology of Paul Tillich. Although King’s dissertation topic was similar to Charles Hartshorne’s essay “Tillich’s Doctrine of God” (in ibid., pp. 164–195), he did not utilize the essay extensively. See also Raphael Demos, Book Review of Systematic Theology by Paul Tillich, Journal of Philosophy 49 (23 October 1952): 692–708. A signed copy of this review with King’s marginal comments is in MLKP-MBU: Box 107.
12. King, Stride Toward Freedom (New York: Harper, 1958), p. 26.
13. See L. Harold DeWolf, First Reader’s Report, 26 February 1955, p. 333–334 in this volume; King, Draft of chapter 3, 1954–1955, MLKP-MBU: Box 96A; and S. Paul Schilling, Second Reader’s Report, 26 February 1955, pp. 334–335 in this volume.
14. Walter G. Muelder, dean of the School of Theology, was a member of the committee but did not attend the oral examination. See Boston University, Transcript of Record, 5 June 1955, BUR-MBU.
MLKP-MBU, Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers, 1954-1968, Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Mass.