Martin Luther King - 1964

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Martin Luther King - 1964

Martin Luther King (born 1929, assassinated 1968) was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. Dr King visited St Paul's Cathedral in 1964.

Inspired by his faith he combined his radical thought with oratorical brilliance to fight discrimination. His 'I Have A Dream' speech described a vision of racial equality that has inspired millions. Despite continual provocation, imprisonment, assault and bomb attacks on his home, he stayed true to non-violence. He is commemorated with a national holiday in America on the third Monday of January each year. 

Dr King left the United States in December 1964 to collect the Nobel Peace prize in Norway. He broke his journey in London and came to St Paul's Cathedral at the invitation of Canon John Collins. He addressed a congregation of 4,000 people from the Cathedral pulpit and delivered the sermon “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”.

St Paul's Institute examines Dr King's theology and its relevance to us today - find out more 

In 2014 we held an event that explored Dr King's message of an equal society, watch the video here

In the sermon he described the first dimension as being a life of self interest "living as though no one else existed - victimized by the acid of egoism"; the second dimension he characterised as the outward concern with the welfare of others, "a love of humanity" and the third dimension was man's upward reach towards God. The sermon exhorted the congregation to be the best that they could be -     

"If you can’t be a pine on the top of a hill

Be a scrub in the valley—but be

The best little scrub on the side of the hill,

Be a bush if you can’t be a tree.

If you can’t be a highway just be a trail

If you can’t be the sun be a star;

It isn’t by size that you win or fail—

Be the best of whatever you are.

And when you do this, when you do this, you’ve mastered the length of life"

Following the service in St Paul’s, Dr King gave a press conference in the Cathedral Chapter House where he answered questions on race relations in the UK.

He said: “I think it's a fact now, and everybody knows it, that there are growing racial problems in Britain as a result of the large number of coloured persons from the West Indies, from Pakistan and India who are coming into the Country. And it is my feeling that if Britain is not eternally vigilant and if England does not in a real sense, go all out to deal with this problem now; it can mushroom and become as serious as the problem we face in some other Nations.” 

The Times reported Dr King's comments that segregated living creates festering sores of bitterness and deprivation which pollute the national health and his belief that equal opportunity for education, training and employment must be provided without regard to class or colour if the nation is to prosper in spirit and in truth. Migration from the fast declining British Empire in the 1950's and 1960's had led government officials to consider the management of how migration from "coloured territories" would be received.

In the press conference Dr King warned that immigration laws based on colour would be totally out of keeping with the laws of God.   

Dr King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway on 10th December, 1964. In presenting the award, the Nobel Committee Chairman stated that he was 'the first person in the Western world to have shown us that a struggle can be waged without violence. He is the first to make the message of brotherly love a reality in the course of his struggle, and he has brought this message to all men, to all nations and races.' 

Dr King accepted the award on behalf of the thousands of participants in The Civil Rights Movement, whom he described as a “mighty army of love.” King regarded the prize as a “commission” that demanded that he move beyond “national allegiances” to speak out for peace.

Southbank School of Mosaics created a mosaic of Dr King in 2016 to commemorate the life and work of this great advocate of Civil Rights. The mosaic will be displayed in St Paul's for Martin Luther King Day - marking the birthday of Martin Luther King - observed on the third Monday of January, close to Dr King's birthday on January 15th. 

A version of the Three Dimensions sermon from 1967