The impact of Martin Luther King, Jr. on the history of the United States is generally recognized. However, the source of his revolutionary ideas and beliefs is subject to strong debates among experts. For example, Stephen Oates suggests that the main political ideas were absorbed by King during his college years in several institutions. Richard Lischer and other experts, on the other hand, claim that King’s family was the crucial factor contributing to the development of his ideas and personality. It seems that both of them are partially correct.
It seems correct that the experience of studying Philosophy and Theology at Crozer Seminary, Morehouse College, and Boston University was very influential for Martin Luther King, Jr. During this period, he was able to precisely formulate all his main ideas about non-violence, non-discrimination, and religious tolerance. He studied the ideas of other philosophers, analyzed their strategies and beliefs. Although he was the leader of the African-American Rights Movement, he also advocated equal rights for all other categories of disadvantaged people. He believed that all people should have equal rights and civil opportunities regardless of their social origin and status. It seems that his doctoral research in systematic theology was especially influential regarding his intellectual development.
During his studies at Boston University, King examined the positions of all major philosophers in relation to civil liberties and other related issues. Although some parts of his dissertation were not original and properly referenced, his intellectual contribution is significant, and all scientific committees confirm his Doctoral Degree. Dr. King also believed that he should use his ideas to influence the world and achieve some considerable improvements in the sphere of civil rights in the US. Although King’s intellectual development during this period is significant, it is incorrect to state that only his graduate and post-graduate studies have contributed to the emergence of correct ideas and effective plans about their implementation.
The fact that Martin Luther King, Jr. demonstrated some of his ideas and inclinations to their implementation even during his early years shows that the influence of King’s family and his close environment was also highly strong. Even King’s early experience outlined several serious problems with racial segregation. As he had to attend the segregated school for African Americans, he understood that the existing system did not perceive all people equally. Some citizens were considered as being privileged, while others were deprived from even the most basic liberties. King was unable to communicate with one of his friends because his friend’s father suggested that King was inappropriate to a position of a friend of their family. All these cases were perceived by the young King as the examples of social injustice. He did not consider that such segregation was legitimate from a moral or any other point of view.
The influence of King’s family was also significant. All family members were highly religious, and King was also interested in religious issues. His father seems to have the largest impact on him because he explained him his worldview, as well as demonstrated some ways of civil disobedience through his actions. For example, King, Sr. refused to communicate with those people who behaved inadequately and did not respect him, such as a policeman calling him “boy”. Thus, King, Sr. demonstrated his civil disobedience through his actions. Although his methods were non-violent, they were highly efficient. They did not lead to immediate results, but they made the existing problems evident for all social members. This position was close to King, Jr. and in accordance with his understanding of religion.
Although his father primarily used non-violent methods, he sometimes applied violent means in relation to King, Jr. He was often whipped by his father. Thus, King, Sr. was inconsistent in his views. King, Jr. had to provide his analysis and comparison of various means. He believed that violence could not lead to any long-term positive results. Therefore, he applied the principles of non-violence in a much more consistent way. King, Jr. was highly religious as all other members of his family; however, he tried to understand all relevant issues with the help of his reason and logic. Thus, he doubted that the idea of the bodily resurrection of Christ was correct. He did not see any strong evidences of this idea; therefore, he began to doubt whether it was correct. Despite his doubts regarding some issues, he suggested that the Bible was the source of many truths that could not be discovered in different ways.
The influence of King’s family is also highly substantial as King’s first ideas that were developed later emerged during his childhood years. He understood that religion was a powerful source of social changes. As all people are equal before God, any segregation or discrimination are illegitimate and should be abolished. King also understood that non-violent means could be highly effective in the long run and lead to the desirable results. In general, the influence of his family on King’s worldview seems to be even more substantial than that of his studying experience at university. The family demonstrated the significance of equal rights for all people, and these ideas were later developed during his college and university years. This conclusion can be made through investigating his student papers.
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However, it is incorrect to attribute all King’s ideas to one or both of abovementioned sources. King’s ideas were not merely the result of the external influence. He was able to integrate all his knowledge and ideas of other people into the complex and sophisticated social system. Moreover, he was able to correctly apply all theoretical statements to the conditions of the US. He was efficient in explaining his worldview and understanding of the foundation of a free society to other people. He suggested that the main task of his ideas was to implement actual changes in people’s lives rather than merely declare them without any substantial influence.
All these elaborations were made by King, Jr. independently and cannot be attributed to the influence of other people. His reason, logic, and devotion to justice allowed reaching such drastic results during the short period of time. It may be concluded that King’s ideas and values originated under the influence of several sources. The fundamental elements of his worldview emerged in his childhood, especially after the communication with his father. He obtained his first knowledge of religion, racial segregation, and the equality of people before God in this period.
These ideas were further developed during his college and university years. He studied the ideas and approaches of various philosophers and analyzed how they could be relevant regarding his plans to establish an equal and just society. However, King, Jr. introduced a large number of unique elements and nuances in his system. Finally, he was able to develop a complex and coherent intellectual system. These ideas have changed the history of the US; their development and integration cannot be completely explained due to the influence of external factors.