The experiences of and changes in Martin Luther King Jr. during his three years (1948-1951) at Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania.
Parr, a historian who has written about King in Seattle Magazine and elsewhere, debuts with a work that focuses sharply on a somewhat neglected period of the Nobel laureate’s life (1929-1968), the period when he left home—and paternal expectations—in Atlanta, traveled north, and began discovering who he was and what he must do. The text, sturdily chronological, features some key biographical details: for each term, we see the class schedule of King (whom the author refers to as “ML” throughout—as did King’s intimates); the course descriptions from the Crozer catalog; and detailed information about his professors and classmates. Quoting occasionally from the papers King wrote at Crozer, the author is fearless about recording and commenting on King’s patent plagiarism; he was fond of writing extensive passages, sometimes almost verbatim from his sources, and neglecting quotation marks or any form of citation. Although Parr doesn’t excuse King’s academic deceit, he does note that King’s professors never did anything about it. The author also explores King’s personal life during these years: his friends, his leisure activities (including pool and basketball—good at the former, not the latter), and his love life, including a rather extensive relationship with the white daughter of Crozer’s cook, a relationship that worried friends and others. The late 1940s and early 1950s, even in the North, were not especially tolerant of interracial dating. Parr concludes with King’s admission to the doctorate program at Boston University and finishes with some updates on key characters and on Crozer itself, now merged elsewhere, its campus closed.
A cleareyed and honest account of some transformative experiences in the life of the gifted young man who would become a cultural icon.