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The initial volumes of the project's fourteen-volume edition of King's papers have contributed to a new understanding of King's graduate school experiences, demonstrating that his academic writings, though flawed by serious instances of plagiarism, were often reliable expressions of his complex, evolving Weltanschauung.Moreover, King's writings make clear that his roots in African-American religion did not necessarily separate him from European-American theological influences, because many of the black religious leaders who were his role models were themselves products of predominantly white seminaries and graduate schools.
While a theology student at Morehouse College, King, Sr., had been exposed to the liberal theological ideas of C. A year later he became chairman of the Committee on the Equalization of Teachers' Salaries, which was formed to protest against discriminatory policies that paid higher salaries to white teachers than to equally qualified blacks.
In spite of receiving threatening hate letters, he played a leading role in the sustained struggle for pay equity.' King's firm insistence that the Christian church should participate in civil rights activities set him apart from politically conservative scriptural fundamentalists.
He reflected, "I had never given this matter a thought, and even at the time of [my] baptism I was unaware of what was taking place." King admitted that he "joined the church not out of any dynamic conviction, but out of a childhood desire to keep up with my sister." In the same sketch, he wrote that, although he accepted the teachings of his Sunday school teachers until he was about twelve, this uncritical attitude could not last long, for it was contrary to the very nature of my being.
I had always been the questioning and precocious type.
As he sought to resolve religious doubts that had initially prevented him from accepting his calling, King looked upon European-American theological ideas not as alternatives to traditional black Baptist beliefs but as necessary correctives to those beliefs.
Tracing the evolution of his religious beliefs in a sketch written at Crozer entitled "An Autobiography of Religious Development," King recalled that an initial sense of religious estrangement had unexpectedly and abruptly become apparent at a Sunday morning revival meeting he attended at about the age of seven.Martin Luther King, Sr., continued this tradition of social gospel activism after he married Williams's only daughter in 1926. Ebenezer tried to be an anchor as the storm rose." After taking over Ebenezer upon Williams's death in 1931, Martin Luther King, Sr., expanded the scope of his predecessor's politically engaged ministry.Although his son would sometimes depict him as a conservative, King, Sr., identified himself as a social gospel preacher who believed that his ministry should be focused on the everyday needs of his congregation rather than otherworldly concerns. As the two ministers struggled to retain the loyalty of their congregations during the Great Depression, King recalled that Williams insisted, "Whosoever carries the word must make the word flesh." King explained that Williams used church funds to "make food available to the hungry and clothes to those without them. Early in 1935, he organized meetings to encourage blacks to register to vote and, despite resistance from more cautious clergyman and lay leaders, organized a march to City Hall.the feeling for ceremonies and ritual, the passionate love of Baptist music") and skills ("a great speaker ...and he sang, too, in a fine, clear voice") that would prepare him for a preaching career.In 1940, he revealed his commitment to social gospel Christianity in an address on "the true mission of the Church" delivered to the Atlanta Missionary Baptist Association: Quite often we say the church has no place in politics, forgetting the words of the Lord, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath [anointed] me to preach the Gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and the recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised." ...God hasten the time when every minister will become a registered voter and a part of every movement for the betterment of our people.The Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project has contributed to this scholarly trend by documenting the King family's long-standing ties to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the social gospel ministries of his father and grandfather, both of whom were civil rights leaders as well as pastors.The King project's research also suggests, however, that the current trend in scholarship may understate the extent to which King's African-American religious roots were inextricably intertwined with the European-American intellectual influences of his college years.He also led a successful drive to pressure white officials into providing improved educational facilities for black children.This effort resulted in the establishment of a black high school that Martin Luther King, Jr., later attended.