On April 19, 1961, Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the seminary community in a packed chapel. The faculty invited King to give his address as the seminary’s Julius Brown Gay Lecturer. King challenged the seminarian that the church had a central role to play in ending segregation. The church should teach the equality of all races and the destructive character of racial segregation. It should counter the racists’ inflammatory rhetoric and assure white society that the “basic aim of the Negro is to be the white man’s brother and not his brother-in-law.” As true followers of Jesus Christ, they should be “maladjusted” to the “evils of segregation and discrimination” and lead their churches to “move out into the realm of social reform.” It was King’s familiar message, but no one missed the significance of its being given at the oldest seminary in the largely segregated Southern Baptist Convention.
On the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, listening to King’s words at Southern Seminary brings a new sense of historical importance.
Photographs: Martin Luther King, Jr. in Alumni Chapel, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, April 19, 1961. Photographer unknown.
Source: Gregory A. Wills, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1859-2009 (New York, Oxford University Press, 2009) at 415.