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"The Unknown Great"

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
January 1, 1948 to December 31, 1954
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Education


  1. Introduction
    1. In every epoch of human history and in every civilization there are certain names that stand out and that are not forgotten.
      1. Hebrew culture—Moses and Abraham

        Prophets—[Isaiah?] Jeremiah, Ezekiel

      2. Early Christian—Paul Peter
      3. Greek culture—Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

        Lit. Aeschylus, Euripedes, Aristophanes1

      4. Roman civilizaton—Ceasars Lucresius, Augustine2
      5. Middle Ages—
    2. The contributions of these individuals have been great and lasting and history would be at a lost without them. But in every age there have been a group of men and women whose contributions have been equally significant, but whose names have passed into the dim unknown. They have gone down in history forgotten and unknown. They have faded into the dark halls of oblivion.

      A clear example of this is found in our text for the morning.

    3. Text—Ecclesiastes 9:14-163
  2. Let us notice first that the course of history is not changed by the creative work of a single individual but by the cooperative endeavor of a group of individual
    1. The minor prophets prepared the way for the greater prophets4
    2. Paul was not the only missionary
    3. Reformation was not started by Martin Luther
    4. The abolition of slavery had been advocated long before Lincoln.
  3. Let us notice again that behind the work of the individuals whose greatness remains known is the so often made possible by the work of [strikeout illegible] individuals whose names are not rememembed and not know
    1. Doing a little in a big way
    2. Marion Anderson5
    3. The Captain of the ship—We could not survive without someone doing the dirty work.

1. Aeschylus (525-456 BCE), Euripides (ca. 484-406 BCE), and Aristophanes (ca. 450-ca. 388 BCE) were renowned Athenian playwrights.

2. Lucretius (ca. 96-ca. 55 BCE) was an influential Roman poet.

3. “There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.”

4. King refers to the minor prophets whose lives were documented in the twelve shorter books of prophecy in the Old Testament: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. By greater prophets, he refers to Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel.

5. In his sermon “Conquering Self-Centeredness” King discussed Marian Anderson's acknowledgment of her mother's sacrifice: “Let us never forget that Marian Anderson, that great contralto, is there today because somebody in the background helped her to get there. Because there was that mother who was willing to work days and nights until her eyebrows were all but parched and her hands all but scorched in order that her daughter could get her training and an education” (King, Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, 11 August 1957, in Papers 4:255).


CSKC, INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 118, ''Sermon Material."