The Legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Boston University in 1951, searching for a multicultural community and a setting for his study of ethics and philosophy. He became “Dr. King” by earning a Ph.D. in systematic theology here in 1955.

During these years, Howard Thurman was named dean of the University’s Marsh Chapel. King not only attended sermons there but also turned to Thurman as his mentor and spiritual advisor. Among the lessons that inspired him most were Thurman’s accounts of a visit to Mohandas Gandhi in India years earlier. It was Thurman who educated King in the mahatma’s ideas of nonviolent protest. As the bridge between Gandhi and King, BU’s progressive dean helped sow the seeds of change in the U.S. and beyond.

Boston University preserves the legacy of our greatest alumnus in several ways. Our library houses thousands of King’s personal papers and correspondence. On Marsh Plaza in front of the chapel, you can see an inspiring sculptural tribute to his famous words, Free At Last. And everywhere on our campus, you can hear what we still consider to be the strongest statement of King’s life’s work: the enormous variety of voices and viewpoints that ring out on our campus.