Editor’s Note: Rashid Faisal, the author of this amazing work, has been featured on the site here. He is a relentless dresser, a relentless academic, and a great dad. This series will be featured in five parts. I am a HUGE fan, and you will be too. – JB
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and The Ivy League explores his relationship with the schools known as the Ivy League or the “Ancient Eight.” Throughout his career as a civil rights movement leader, Dr. King visited all the Ivy League schools—Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, UPenn, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Brown—sharing his message of servant leadership and advocacy against racism, poverty, and militarism. Dr. King viewed education as more than an elite endeavor or a branding expedition to graduate from an elite college or university. Instead, he suggested that “Education should equip us with the power to think effectively and objectively. To think is one of the hardest things in the world, and to think objectively still harder. Yet this is the job of education. Education should cause us to rise beyond the horizon of legions of half truth, prejudices and propaganda.”
University of Pennsylvania
In 1948, at nineteen years of age, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary, about 15 miles from the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. King audited philosophy courses at UPenn as a young seminary student. He transferred the credits he earned at UPenn to Crozer Theological Seminary. From November 1949 through February 1950, King attended a seminar at UPenn titled “Philosophy of History,” where the social philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi was discussed. He was the only Black student enrolled in this course. His professor noted him as articulate and thoughtful, with intellectually strong and solidly constructed opinions due to his ability to listen to both sides of an argument before stating his opinion.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Harvard University
It was in January of 1965 that Dr. King paid a visit to Harvard University. Still, his history with the League University dates back to 1952-1953, when he studied philosophy there as a Ph.D. student at Boston University. The success of the 1955-1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott invited Dr. King to be a guest preacher at Harvard’s Memorial Church during the 1959-196- academic year. And then, in 1962, he returned once more to Harvard Law School to give a lecture titled “The Future of Integration, ” where he famously said, “The law cannot make a man love me, but it can keep him from lynching me.”
Dr. King’s second visit to Harvard in January of 1965 included yet another sermon at Memorial Church, in which he said another famous quote, “The philosophy of an eye for any results in everyone being blind.” In his lecture, he also discussed voting rights, racial equality, anti-lynching legislation, and legislation to end de facto segregation in American schools. At the same time, Dr. King was described as “natty as a J. Press ad in his three-piece continental suit.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Cornell University
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had the great pleasure of being invited to visit both Cornell University and Princeton University at different times throughout the 1960s. On November 13, 1960, the college president, Dean W. Mallot, welcomed him to Cornell University and was greeted with much anticipation. At 11 AM, he spoke at Sage Chapel on the three dimensions of life based on Revelations 21:16 of the Bible: self-interest, interest in others, and love of God. These topics addressed the benefits of racial integration while warning against racial violence and racial hatred.
Five months later, in April of 1961, he revisited Cornell University, this time at Bailey Hall, to a crowd of 2,600 people. This time, his sermon touched on the issues of human dignity for Black Americans, social justice, voter suppression, wage inequality, and the rising power of the Ku Klux Klan, all of which pointed toward the need for ethical leadership in the quest for equality.
- Rashid Faisal