The Seminarian: Martin Luther King Jr. Comes of Age

Patrick Parr. Lawrence Hill, $26.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-915864-12-6
Historian Parr’s debut work of nonfiction is a true life bildungsroman, in which the protagonist, a young man by the name of Martin Luther King Jr., grows up to be a world famous theologian and preacher. The book looks specifically at a formative yet largely overlooked period in King’s life, beginning in 1948, when the then 19-year-old left his home in Atlanta, Ga., and headed north to attend divinity school at the Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pa. Parr provides an in-depth account of the curriculum, which included introductory courses on the history and literature of the New Testament, practical and technical courses such as one on how to conduct a sermon over the radio, and more radical courses like Christianity and Study, in which King studied Walter Rauschenbusch’s social gospel, which he often echoed later in his career when preaching to white audiences. Parr enriches the discussion of King’s formal studies with insights into King’s relationships with professors and fellow seminarians, and even discusses King’s shortcomings as a student (Parr notes, for example, that King’s poor grasp of citation rules would not fly today). Often overlooked or relegated to mere footnotes in previous biographies, Parr highlights this short, influential period in King’s life, fleshing out the details of courses, teachers, mentors, pals, and dates, and presenting a fresh portrait of King, the “rookie preacher.” Photos. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 02/12/2018
Release date: 04/01/2018
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