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Posted under: News Culture

6 Significant Highlights From Martin Luther King Jr's College Years

Dr. King's work in the Civil Rights Movement is widely known, but what was he up to during his college years?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was welcomed to the world 93 years ago, and he left behind a legacy that continues to impact the lives of millions of Americans. With his unwavering, nonviolent stance in the fight for civil rights, Dr. King inspired many to advocate for Black Americans during a pivotal time in history.

With his strength and charisma, Dr. King played a significant part in dismantling Jim Crow Laws and passing the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He continued to be involved in social justice initiatives—such as economic reform and anti-Vietnam War campaigns—until his tragic assassination in 1968.

As we look forward to celebrating another MLK Day, we've decided to honor Dr. King by putting together a list of some highlights from his college years.


He Began Attending Morehouse At Just 15 Years Old

Dr. King was quite precocious growing up, as he began taking college courses back in 1944 at the young age of 15. He specifically began attending Morehouse College in Atlanta, which was the alma mater of both his father and grandfather.

While attending the prestigious university, Dr. King and other students were notably urged by the then-president—Dr. Benjamin E. Mays—to be "sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings and the injustices of society" and "accept responsibility for correcting these ills."



He Was An Assistant Pastor While Earning His Sociology Degree

Upon his 1948 graduation, Dr. King had earned a sociology degree while still in his teens. He was inspired to follow in his father's ministry footsteps about a year before this after taking a Bible class.

Resultingly, he began the process of becoming ordained. By the time he graduated from Morehouse, he was already an assistant pastor. Talk about having a job lined up for right after graduation!



He Was Deeply Involved In Extracurricular Activities

Aside from his studies and religious pursuits, Dr. King was also busy with an array of extracurriculars. In 1947, he published an essay titled "The Purpose of Education" in the Morehouse student newspaper, The Maroon Tiger

Additionally, he was also active in the Atlanta-based university's debate team, student council, and minister's union, and he was involved with a YMCA basketball team. Dr. King was a well-rounded student who enjoyed keeping a lot on his plate.



He Began Fighting For Civil Rights As A Teenage Undergrad

It's also worth acknowledging that Dr. King's tireless fight for civil rights began as an undergrad. 

When he was 17 years old, the killing of five Black Georgia natives, including a woman who was 7-months pregnant, inspired Dr. King to decry this violence in a letter to the editor of The Atlanta Constitution.

The piece, titled "Kick Up Dust," is a powerful insight into the civil rights champion Dr. King would become in later years.



He Earned A Second Bachelor's From A Theology School

After finishing up his studies at Morehouse, Dr. King pursued a second bachelor's degree from Crozer Theological Seminary near Philadelphia. While attending the institution, Dr. King became the class president and valedictorian. 

He became romantically involved with a white woman during his seminary studies. The woman was specifically a German cafeteria worker, and—despite their strong feelings for each other—they eventually broke up due to the stigma against their interracial relationship. 


He Earned His Ph.D. In Systematic Theology From Boston University

In 1955, Dr. King graduated with his Ph.D. from Boston University. His doctoral degree was in the field of systematic theology, and his dissertation was titled "A Comparison of the Conceptions of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman."

Dr. King found his passion for religious studies during his junior year at Morehouse. He commendably followed it all the way through until he attained the highest academic title.


Let's continue to celebrate Dr. King's accomplishments and personage this MLK Day and beyond.
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