Thursday, April 10, 2008

"I Have a Dream" -- An Address by Archibald Carey, Sr. to the 1952 Republican National Convention

I got to thinking about Martin Luther Kings speeches and writings, including his doctoral dissertation. So I decided to import the entire Wikipedia article to my blog so others can chomp on it a bit.

I wish to note however, that once again the Republicans were on the cutting edge of racial issues leaps and bounds ahead of the “Party of Slavery,” i.e., the Democrats.

Dissertation and other academic papers

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s papers were donated by his wife Coretta Scott King to Stanford University's King Papers Project. During the late 1980s, as the papers were being organized and worked on, the staff of the project made a discovery that dismayed them — King's doctoral dissertation at Boston University, titled A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman, included large sections from a dissertation written by another student (Jack Boozer) three years earlier at Boston University.[1]

As Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project at Stanford University, has written, "instances of textual appropriation can be seen in his earliest extant writings as well as his dissertation. The pattern is also noticeable in his speeches and sermons throughout his career."[2]

Boston University, where King got his Ph.D. in systematic theology, conducted an investigation that found he plagiarized major portions of his doctoral thesis from various other authors who wrote about the topic.[3][4]

According to Ralph E. Luker, who worked on the King Papers Project directing the research on King's early life, King's paper The Chief Characteristics and Doctrines of Mahayana Buddhism (available here) was taken almost entirely from secondary sources.[5] He writes:

Moreover, the farther King went in his academic career, the more deeply ingrained the patterns of borrowing language without clear attribution became. Thus, the plagiarism in his dissertation seemed to be, by then, the product of his long established practice.[5]

Although several newspapers had the story for over a year, none published it, later prompting speculation that the story had been withheld due to political correctness. The incident was first reported in December 3, 1989 edition of the Sunday Telegraph by Frank Johnson, titled "Martin Luther King--Was He a Plagiarist?" The incident was then reported in U.S. in the November 9, 1990 edition of the Wall Street Journal, under the title of "To Their Dismay, King Scholars Find a Troubling Pattern." Several other newspapers then followed with stories, including the Boston Globe and the New York Times. Numerous newspaper editorials defended King, saying he was still a great man regardless of his actions. Some articles questioned why the plagiarism went unnoticed.

Boston University decided not to revoke his doctorate, which provoked another controversy,[citation needed] saying that although King acted improperly, his dissertation still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship." However, a letter is now attached to King's dissertation in the university library, noting that numerous passages were included without the appropriate quotations and citations of sources.[6][1]

Ralph Luker has questioned whether King's professors at Crozer held him to lower standards because he was an African-American, citing as evidence the fact that King received lower marks (a C+ average) at the historically black Morehouse College than at Crozer, where he was a minority being graded mostly by white teachers and received an A- average.[5][7] However, Boston University has denied that King received any special treatment.[6]

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project addresses authorship issues on pp. 25-26 of Volume II of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr., entitled "Rediscovering Precious Values, July 1951–November 1955," Clayborne Carson, Senior Editor. Following is an excerpt from these pages:

The readers of King's dissertation, L. Harold DeWolf and S. Paul Schilling, a professor of systematic theology who had recently arrived at Boston University, failed to notice King's problematic use of sources. After reading a draft of the dissertation, DeWolf criticized him for failing to make explicit "presuppositions and norms employed in the critical evaluation," but his comments were largely positive. He commended King for his handling of a "difficult" topic "with broad learning, impressive ability and convincing mastery of the works immediately involved." Schilling found two problems with King's citation practices while reading the draft, but dismissed these as anomalous and praised the dissertation in his Second Reader's report....

As was true of King's other academic papers, the plagiaries in his dissertation escaped detection in his lifetime. His professors at Boston, like those at Crozer, saw King as an earnest and even gifted student who presented consistent, though evolving, theological identity in his essays, exams and classroom comments.... Although the extent of King's plagiaries suggest he knew that he was at least skirting academic norms, the extant documents offer no direct evidence in this matter. Thus he may have simply become convinced, on the basis of his grades at Crozer and Boston, that his papers were sufficiently competent to withstand critical scrutiny. Moreover, King's actions during his early adulthood indicate that he increasingly saw himself as a preacher appropriating theological scholarship rather than as an academic producing such scholarship....


Perhaps most notably, the closing passage from King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech partially resembles Archibald Carey, Sr.'s address to the 1952 Republican National Convention. The similarity is that both speeches end with a recitation of the first verse of Samuel Francis Smith's popular patriotic hymn "America" (My Country ’Tis of Thee), and the speeches share the name of one of several mountains from which both exhort "let freedom ring".

Keith Miller, in Voice of Deliverance: The Language of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Its Sources and elsewhere,[8] argues that such "borrowing", which he terms "voice merging", follows in a long tradition of folk preaching, particularly in the African American church, and should not necessarily be termed plagiarism. On the contrary, he views King's skillful combination of language from different sources as a major oratorical skill.

  1. ^ a b Martin Luther King. Snopes. Retrieved on 2007-01-15.
  2. ^ Carson, Clayborne. Editing Martin Luther King, Jr.: Political and Scholarly Issues. Retrieved on 2008-01-21.
  3. ^ Snopes article on Martin Luther King. Retrieved on 2008-01-21.
  4. ^ Boston University. King Encyclopedia. Stanford University. Retrieved on 2008-01-21.
  5. ^ a b c Ralph E. Luker (2004-12-21). On Martin Luther King's Plagiarism .... CLIOPATRIA: A Group Blog. History News Network Retrieved on 2008-01-21.
  6. ^ a b Radin, Charles A.. "Panel Confirms Plagiarism by King at BU", The Boston Globe, 1991-10-11, p. 1.
  7. ^ Ralph E. Luker (2004-12-21). Grades and Patronage. CLIOPATRIA: A Group Blog. History News Network Retrieved on 2008-01-21.
  8. ^ Keith D. Miller:Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968): Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues. Retrieved on 2008-01-21.


  • "To Their Dismay, King Scholars Find a Troubling Pattern". Wall Street Journal, Nov 9 1990, p. A1.
  • Theodore Pappas. Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Plagiarism Story. ISBN 0-9619364-5-2
  • Charles A. Radin. "Panel confirms plagiarism by King at BU". Boston Globe, Oct 11 1991, p. 1.
  • Clayborne Carson; Peter Holloran; Ralph E. Luker; Penny Russell. Martin Luther King, Jr., as Scholar: A Reexamination of His Theological Writings. The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Jun., 1991), pp. 93-105.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., Papers Project. The Student Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr.: A Summary Statement on Research. The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Jun., 1991), pp. 23-31.
  • David Levering Lewis. Failing to Know Martin Luther King, Jr. The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Jun., 1991), pp. 81-85.
  • David Thelen. Becoming Martin Luther King Jr: An Introduction. The Journal of American History, Vol. 78, No. 1 (Jun., 1991), pp. 11-22