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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Political and Social Views

"The Purpose of Education"

This essay, written sometime during King’s junior year at Morehouse, may be an early draft of the article of the same name published in the Maroon Tiger. He suggests that education should not only “teach man to think intensively” but also provide “worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

Last week we attempted to discuss the purpose of religion. This week our attention moves toward education. I will attempt to answer the question, what is the purpose of education?

Strength to Love

As Martin Luther King prepared for the Birmingham Campaign in early 1963, he drafted the final sermons for Strength to Love, a volume of his most well known homilies that would be published later that year. He originally proposed the book in early 1957 to Melvin Arnold, head of Harper & Brothers’ Religious Books Department. Arnold welcomed King’s “proposed collection of sermons; we hope that they will have a heavy emphasis on permanent religious values, rather than on topical events” (Arnold, 5 February 1957). Despite King’s best intentions and Arnold’s repeated urging for a manuscript, however, King had not produced the promised sermon book by mid-1962.

St. Augustine, Florida

In the spring of 1964, as St. Augustine, Florida, prepared to celebrate its 400th anniversary, Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) launched a massive campaign supporting the small local movement to end racial discrimination in the nation’s oldest city. King hoped that demonstrations there would lead to local desegregation and that media attention would garner national support for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was then stalled in a congressional filibuster.

Social Gospel

In an 18 July 1952 letter, Martin Luther King wrote to his future wife, Coretta Scott, about his beliefs as a minister and proclaimed: “Let us continue to hope, work, and pray that in the future we will live to see a warless world, a better distribution of wealth, and a brotherhood that transcends race or color. This is the gospel that I will preach to the world” (Papers 6:126). As a self-described “advocator of the social gospel,” King’s theology was concerned “with the whole man, not only his soul but his body, not only his spiritual well-being, but his material well-being” (Papers 6:72; Papers 5:422). His ministry built upon the social gospel of the Protestant church at the turn of the twentieth century and his own family’s practice of preaching on the social conditions of parishioners.

Nonviolence

As a theologian, Martin Luther King reflected often on his understanding of nonviolence. He described his own “pilgrimage to nonviolence” in his first book, Stride Toward Freedom, and in subsequent books and articles. “True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” King wrote, is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride, 80). Both “morally and practically” committed to nonviolence, King believed that “the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom” (King, Stride, 79; Papers 5:422).

Nobel Peace Prize

On the morning of 14 October 1964, Martin Luther King, sleeping in an Atlanta hospital room after checking in for a rest, was awakened by a phone call from his wife, Coretta Scott King, telling him that he had been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. Although many in the United States and abroad praised the selection, segregationist Eugene “Bull” Connor called it “scraping the bottom of the barrel” (“Cheers and Scorn”). Presenting the award to King in Oslo, Norway, that December, the chairman of the Nobel Committee praised him for being “the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races” (Jahn, “Presentation,” 332).

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