“Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop and I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will, and He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight, that we as a people will get to the Promised Land. And I’m happy tonight; I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”
— Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., April 3, 1968

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born January 15, 1929, to Reverend Martin Luther King Sr. and Alberta Williams King in Atlanta, Georgia. He had a brother, Alfred Daniel, also a pastor, and a sister, Christine. His maternal grandfather was a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, and his paternal grandparents were sharecroppers.

The younger King married Coretta Scott in Marion, Alabama on June 18, 1953. His father performed the service, and Rev. A. D. King, his brother, was his best man. The Kings had four children: Yolanda Denise (November 17, 1955, Montgomery, Alabama), Martin Luther III (October 23, 1957, Montgomery, Alabama), Dexter Scott (January 30, 1961, Atlanta, Georgia), and Bernice Albertine (March 28, 1963, Atlanta, Georgia).

King excelled in school and skipped the 9th and 12th grades. He scored high on college entrance exams and was admitted to Morehouse College at the age of 15 without having formally graduated from high school. In 1948, he graduated from Morehouse with a bachelor of arts in Sociology.

From there he entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. While there, he once again stood apart from his peers. He was elected class president and valedictorian and won scholarships and fellowships allowing him to attend the graduate school of his choice. With his bachelor of divinity degree, he set off to Boston University in 1951 to study systematic theology.

At BU, he completed his dissertation, entitled A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman, and won his doctorate in 1955.

Following his ordination in 1948, King began preaching at Ebenezer. Upon receiving his doctorate, he moved with his family to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama where he served as pastor from 1954 to 1959. In 1960 he began work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and remained a co-pastor at his father's church, Ebenezer, until his death in 1968.

To say that Dr. King was a central figure in the American civil rights movement would be an understatement. He was at the center of some of the movement's key struggles, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-56, the 1963 anti-segregation sit-in protests in Birmingham, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1965 Selma march, and many more. At the core of his beliefs were a commitment to universal justice and non-violence. In fact, in 1959 he spent a month in India studying Gandhi’s techniques of nonviolence as guests of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. His work won him several honors including the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize and the 1963 Time Magazine's Man of the Year Award. His life and ideas continue to inspire people of all races and nationalities.

Dr. King was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968. He was in Memphis to campaign for the rights of sanitation workers. James Earl Ray was convicted of the crime on March 9, 1969, and was sentenced to a 99 years in Tennessee State Penitentiary.

Notable noded speeches and writings1


  • Stride Toward Freedom, (New York: Harper & Row, 1958). The story of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
  • The Measure of a Man, (Philadelphia: Pilgrim Press, 1959). A selection of sermons.
  • Why We Can’t Wait, (New York: Harper & Row, 1963). The story of the Birmingham Campaign.
  • Strength to Love, (New York: Harper & Row, 1963). A selection of sermons.
  • Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community? (New York: Harper & Row, 1967). Reflections on the problems of today’s world, the nuclear arms race, etc.
  • The Trumpet of Conscience, (New York: Harper & Row, 1968). The Massey Lectures. Sponsored by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. (Posthumously).


1 Please /msg me if you know of any more noded works and I will add them to the list. Thanx.
When I was just entering my freshman year of college an English professor handed out a sheet about plagiarism. The policy of the school was on it, different forms of plagiarism were listed and right smack in the middle of the page was the name of Martin Luther King Jr., the most famous plagiarist of them all.

King plagiarized his way through college on paper after paper at both Boston University and Crozer Theological Seminary. Theologian Edgar S. Brightman was one victim of this 'great' man's transgressions as he pulled large chunks of text from The Finding of God and plopped them straight into his essay The Place of Reason and Experience in Finding God. Another victim of King's cut and paste education was Walter Marshall Horton.

The first sermon King gave in 1947 at the Ebenezer Baptist Church was full of non-original material, a slap in the face to reverends, pastors and preachers of all types who spend hours coming up with original material each week, as was his first book Stride Toward Freedom.

The final blow to King's reputation as a pillar of virtue is the blatant stealing of text from Dr. Jack Boozer's Ph.D. dissertation, The Place of Reason in Paul Tillich's Concept of God for his own doctoral thesis titled A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Harry Nelson Wieman.

The blame doesn't sit square on the shoulders of King or his wife, Coretta Scott King, who aided in his plagiarism while serving as his secretary, but also on the shoulders of those professors who didn't root out the crime, or worse, turned a blind eye. Theorists say it was because he was black that they overlooked the infraction and lack of quality in papers that were more 'summary' than true research papers. They needed the minorities, he was an ambitious black man and it was politically correct to overlook the sub-par papers.

The question becomes if he cheated his way through school what titles that are so commonly slapped in front of his name does he deserve to retain? You may have noticed, as I have, that over the years 'Doctor' appears less and less before his name. As the knowledge of his less than admirable behavior spreads and is affirmed people are reluctant to give him this respected title that he never truly earned.

At an early age American children are taught that there are few people worth emulating and Martin Luther King is one of them. He is the moral standard presented again and again each year. When the knowledge of his less than admirable actions are learned later in life there are varying reactions. For some King's memory is somewhat tarnished by these less than reputable actions. It's not that the things he did for Civil Rights are forgotten or that his plagiarism stands alone as his legacy, just that the icon he once presented no longer stands so brilliantly revered. The ideal he once represented no longer remains tethered to this man, it stands alone - we all have the dream. We all strive to see that dream come to fruition, with or without a visible icon representing that ideal.

For others the knowledge of King's stolen education and the allegations of spousal abuse don't matter. It's secondary to the image of the Civil Rights leader they've been ingrained with all their lives. What does it matter if he took someone else's words for his own, or hit his wife, when he led the way in non-violent protests in America and paved the way for equality?

The topic of King's less than admirable history is one that incites a great deal of controversy. In the posting of this node I discovered two noders very passionate about the non-importance of this information in light of King's Civil Rights works. I believe the terms they used to describe me included "wack" "idiot" and "misguided." I also discovered three noders who believe the 'tarnishing' does occur and he shouldn't be held up to the heights of greatness that he is. In the words of one supporter "Fuck em if they wanna live in denial. If that shit were about George W. they'd be eating it up."

"King's Plagiarism: Imitation, Insecurity and Transformation," The Journal of American History, June 1991, p. 87
Holiday for a Cheater, by Michael Hoffman

Martin Luther King was a great man and he was made greater by martyrdom; he had eudaimonia, and the way his life ended gave the entirety a blessed meaning. He did not live to become old, angry, and irrelevant, or long enough that his flaws began to outweigh his virtues. His death was cruel and sparked a destructive rampage as riots swept across the United States in its aftermath, but it became one of those punctuation marks that separated the violent and frantic 1960s from the new status quo that followed them. In death he became the symbol of his people's struggle, a kind of glorious jewel in their crown. While he was alive, many white Americans thought he was dangerous and many black Americans thought he was too timid: his death had a way of clarifying precisely who endangered who, and who was braving what.

King didn't excel at school at first, and he had a habit of engaging in plagiarism: to argue that this was overlooked due to a sort of nascent political correctness is ludicrous, as this was a time when black men trying to register at university were more likely to be beaten senseless by the Ku Klux Klan than subjected to less stringent marking criteria. However, he gained his PhD and became a preacher, which in those days especially meant to be a community leader and a politician more than an original academic thinker.

At college, King developed some of the tastes that would threaten his reputation and give his enemies ammunition to use against him later in life - drinking, womanizing and a vanity that some of his contemporaries found hard to swallow. His womanizing was not atypical in the milieu he moved in, and seems in his case to have been amplified by a desire for escapism born of his own fear of violent death. His over-use of alcohol was probably also influenced by this, and it's always seemed to me that his frequent bouts of exhaustion-related illness might have been helped by backing off the bottle (and the fag packet) as well as backing off his frenetic fund-raising and speaking schedule. His aides called his lifestyle the "War on Sleep", an echo of Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" that was probably hilarious if you were there.

King was a preacher in Montgomery, Alabama and got drawn into the civil rights movement in the 1950s. The civil rights movement in the South was an amorphous entity which aimed to undo the system of state and local laws known as Jim Crow. These laws mandated the segregation of black and white Americans, requiring all public places - schools, buses, railways, restaurants - to provide supposedly "separate but equal" facilities for whites and blacks. Of course, as well as being objectionable in itself, this usually meant that black facilities were inferior in quality to the ones for whites. The system was kept in place by savage restrictions on the ability of black citizens to vote and hence overturn the laws.

This system had come into being after the federal government declined to impose a social revolution on the American South after the Civil War, and up until the 1950s most black organizations - such as the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People - focused on gradual reform through the courts and legal system. The people that made up the civil rights movement in the 1950s and '60s had a different goal: to force the federal government to come back and finish the job, often simply through the moral example provided by their broken bodies as they braved the organized resistance of southern law enforcement and the Klan.

Within this context, King had a number of roles. The first was as a leader, organizer and inspiration for the movement. In the civil rights movement, all politics was local - the movement focused on specific injustices in specific places, from segregation on Montgomery's buses to broad attacks on the segregation regime in Albany, Georgia and Birmingham, Alabama. As the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, founded after the Montgomery boycott in 1957, King was often only one of the leading figures involved in these campaigns. Although his mastery of Gandhian techniques has been overstated, King's basic tactic was to expose the injustice of the Jim Crow system by having his followers violate its laws and then let the world see how the American South treated black people who wanted to sit at a lunch counter or gather peacefully in the streets.

By adopting these peaceful tactics, King occupied the centre ground of the civil rights movement. At the more extreme end - the end that eventually adopted Black Power as its slogan - you had blacks who believed in violence and separation from whites. At the sharper end of the movement was the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which joined other parts of the left in going a bit dotty in the late 1960s and changed its name to the Student National Coordinating Committee, a fairly provocative signal of intent, violence-wise. Then you had the NAACP, which often treated King as a demagogue who would just scare white folks and set back their goal of peaceful reform through the legal system, which NAACP had been pursuing since before Martin Luther King was born, thank you very much.

King rejected the path of violence and he rejected the gradualism of the NAACP, and with good reason. The moral quandaries of violence aside, it was a hopeless path when blacks made up such a small part of the population and had such a small share of its means of organized violence. And gradual reform couldn't be accomplished from within the American South, which was essentially a one-party state dominated by the segregationist Democrats. In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King addressed himself to the moderates, saying: "For years now I have heard the word 'Wait!'... This 'Wait' has almost always meant 'Never'." And never wasn't good enough for Martin Luther King Jr: so he set about trying to involve the only power that could truly rid the South of Jim Crow, the federal government in Washington.

This wasn't easy. John F. Kennedy showed little interest in civil rights until shortly before his death, which is what prompted King to go to Washington to give his famous I have a dream speech in the interest of keeping pressure on the government to act. The breakthrough came with Lyndon Johnson, with whom King at first enjoyed a good relationship. With the Civil Rights Act 1964 and the Voting Rights Act 1965, Johnson finally made the Jim Crow system illegal, an act which for a Democratic Party president at the time was a bit like a turkey voting for Christmas. The so-called "solid south", the base of Democratic support since the late 1870s, drifted into the Republican camp, and this had something to do with the Republican domination of the office of the presidency in the next few decades.

After the triumphs of the mid-1960s, King wasn't ebullient. He increasingly turned his attention to the struggle for economic equality rather than equality in law, addressing himself to the problem of the economic and social situation of northern blacks. He also increasingly saw himself as part of a worldwide struggle which included opposition to the Vietnam War, and in joining the coalition against the war he angered President Johnson. For most of his career, King had been a target of FBI snooping and suspicion, and Johnson now began to give credence to the reports he received from J. Edgar Hoover that King was a danger, possibly even a Communist. King's rhetoric shifted to portraying poor white and black Americans as both victims of the capitalist system, and stressed their need to work together for equality. "This is such a sick society," he took to saying.

It was while visiting striking sanitation workers in Memphis, Tennessee that King was shot and killed by James Earl Ray for reasons unknown. King's final campaign on behalf of the poor had been controversial, as other black leaders saw the same capitalist system he did but prescribed a radically different solution: black separation and independent power, rather than integration into the current system. They were unable to trust white America, or the government of America, after all that had been done to their people: the psychic damage was too much. King stood for something different: for peace, for integration, and for mutual love. He was still working for it when he died, and that's how he has been remembered.

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