Student Before Activist: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Student Before Activist: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Melissa W.

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character -- that is the goal of true education.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a household name due to his powerful activism during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. On this day specifically, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we remember his influence and quest for true equal civil rights and desegregation. But, before his activism, before The March on Washington where he delivered his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, Dr. King was like so many of us: a student.

It’s unsurprising that someone such as Dr. King was noted as being a “precocious student,” having skipped both the 9th and 11th grades and entering Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA at the young age of 15. Dr. King graduated Morehouse in 1948 with a Bachelor’s of Sociology and moved on to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA after struggling with the thought of taking the spiritual path his father had hoped he would take. Despite his initial hesitance, Dr. King sailed through Crozer, once becoming the class president and graduating as valedictorian with a Bachelor of Divinity in 1951.

Upon graduating Crozer, Dr. King started at Boston University to work toward his doctorate degree in systematic theology. Additionally, he took philosophy courses at Harvard University as an audit student for no academic credit. It was during his time at BU that he met his future wife, Coretta Scott who was attending The New England Conservatory, a private music school in Boston, MA. In the midst of working on his dissertation, Dr. King started his pastorship at a baptist church in Alabama prior to graduating from Boston University with his Ph.D in 1955 at the age of 25. Yes, 25! He hit the ground running and while advancing the Civil Rights Movement, he received many awards, including five honorary degrees.

dr martin luther king jr as a student

We continue to reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and wonder what this world would be like today had he not been so brutally assassinated in 1968. Much like his incredible educational accomplishments that he completed at such a young age, Dr. King continued the momentum and brought about so much change before his death at 39. Yes, just 39. 

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.” -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Cover photo credited to Yale University.

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