Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry
Handy was a student in Boston University’s School of Religion during King’s first year in Boston.1 In this letter the Methodist preacher describes his experiences as a first-year pastor of a church in Louisiana and cautions King, “The only element to restrain our expectations from bearing fruit will be M. L.
During his first term at Crozer Theological Seminary, King submitted this handwritten outline for Robert E. Keighton’s course Preaching Ministry of the Church.1 The outline reveals King's early commitment to addressing societal needs and ills: “I must be concerned about unemployment, [slums], and economic insecurity. I am a profound advocator of the social gospel.” Keighton marked the paper B+.
King, Sr.’s letter of recommendation to Crozer speaks highly of his son’s abilities and achievements: entering college at the age of fifteen and being ordained and appointed associate pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church at eighteen. He mentions Mays, professor of philosophy Samuel Williams, and professor of religion Lucius M. Tobin who knew King, Jr., as a student at Morehouse.
Lillian Watkins, the secretary at Ebenezer Baptist Church, sent this brief letter to Crozer Theological Seminary to verify King’s status as a licensed minister as requested in the application. Watkins states that King is to be ordained on 18 February 1948, but in his letter of 5 March recommending his son to Crozer, King, Sr., notes that the ordination was on 25 February.
To Whom it may Concer:
Two pages from handwritten draft of the invocation delivered at the funeral of family friend and Atlanta community leader John Wesley Dobbs. King departed from his draft when delivering this invocation.
King writes to his wife from the Georgia State Prison at Reidsville. He tells her “that it is extremely difficult for me to think of being away from you and my Yoki and Marty for four months” but that his ordeal “is the cross that we must bear for the freedom of our people.”
As King recounts his recent visit to the Middle East, he recalls falling to his knees and weeping during a visit to Calvary. He observes that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was “something that nobody could demand him to do,” making him “a man who had the amazing capacity to be obedient to unenforceable obligations.” King tells his congregation that the cross is ultimately a symbol of hope: “We’ve been buried in numerous graves—the grave of economic insecurity, the grave of exploitation, the grave of oppression. We’ve watched justice trampled over and truth crucified.
Returning to his pulpit after an absence of nearly two months, King discusses the life of Gandhi, suggesting that “more than anybody else in the modern world” he had “caught the spirit of Jesus Christ, and lived it more completely in his life.” Referring to Gandhi as one of Jesus’s “other sheep," he observes that “it is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the twentieth century was not a member of the Christian church.” King continues by comparing the lives of three martyred leaders, Jesus, Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln, noting that
Ebenezer Baptist Church leaders inform King that the congregation voted unanimously to request that he join his father as co-pastor. King replied two days later.1
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
309 South Jackson
Dear Doctor King:
King announced his resignation following Sunday services at Dexter and may have used this handwritten draft to frame his remarks. According to a news account, after King spoke three elderly women stood up in protest and looked about “to see if others would join them.” Twelve parishioners eventually rose to demonstrate. One man explained: “We weren’t just going to give him up without some kind of fight. But we were not against him, we just wanted to show our regret.”1