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Old 04-01-2009, 06:37 PM   #47
Rogue Nine
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After doing some cursory research, I've compiled a few excerpts that I think speak to the extent of Dr. King's stance on Gandhi.

The following quotes are from Coretta Scott King's biography of her husband:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
Martin told me that the turning point in his thinking on how to reconcile Christian pacifism with getting things accomplished was when he heard Dr. Mordecai Johnson of Howard University give a lecture on Gandhi [...] Though I don't think he had as yet consciously considered applying the Gandhian technique of nonviolence to the African-American Movement, the idea began germinating in his mind. Later he wrote, "Christ furnished the spirit; Gandhi showed how it would work." - p. 56
Mrs. King identifies Dr. King's discovery of Gandhi as a 'turning point' in his thinking. This indicates to me that prior to his study of Gandhi, he viewed the ideals of nonviolent protest in a different light from the way he ultimately endorsed it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
Martin made speeches, all over India, always emphasizing his debt to Gandhian thinking. - p. 164
'Debt' is a pretty strong term to use. This indicates to me that Mrs. King believed that Dr. King believed that he owed Gandhi for the way he thought.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
Martin returned from India more devoted than ever to Gandhian ideals of nonviolence and simplicity of living. He constantly pondered how to apply them in America. - p. 164
Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
He [King] was more determined than eve to live as simply as possible. He felt, as in India, that much of the corruption in our society stems from the desire to acquire material things - houses and land and cars. Martin would have preferred to have none of these things. - pp. 164-165
It's clear that Mrs. King believed that Dr. King was 'devoted' to Gandhi's methods, to the extent that he even tried to mold his existence around Gandhi's way of life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
The influence of India was so strong that Martin's conscience continually questions whether he was being really nonviolent and really ascetic. - p. 165
Mrs. King confirms just how strong the influence of India and the experiences he had there were on Dr. King's conscience. They challenged the way he through about nonviolence to the point he revised his whole position on it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Coretta Scott King
He [King] finally decided that in the conditions prevailing in America we had to have certain things, and that he must strive to be more like Gandhi spiritually. - p. 165
'Strive to be more like Gandhi spiritually'? That sounds pretty damn influential to me, if you're striving to be more like someone.

*****

The following quotes are from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s book Stride Towards Freedom:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Luther King, Jr.
It was the Sermon on the Mount, rather than a doctrine of passive resistance, that initially inspired the Negroes of Montgomery to dignified social action. It was Jesus of Nazareth that stirred the Negroes to protest with the creative weapon of love.

As the days unfolded, however, the inspiration of Mahatma Gandhi began to exert its influence. I had come to see early that the Christian doctrine of love operating through the Gandhian method of nonviolence was one of the most potent weapons available to the Negro in his struggle for freedom. [...] Christ furnished the spirit and motivation, while Gandhi furnished the method. - pp. 84-85
Dr. King acknowledges both Christ and Gandhi in the same breath, on seemingly equal ground, which is a recurring theme.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Luther King, Jr.
As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time its potency in the area of social reform. Prior to reading Gandhi, I had about concluded that the ethics of Jesus were only effective in individual relationship. The 'turn the other cheek' philosophy and the 'love your enemies' philosophy were only valid, I felt, when individuals were in conflict with other individuals; when racial groups and nations were in conflict a more realistic approach seemed necessary. But after reading Gandhi, I saw how utterly mistaken I was. - pp. 96-97
I reiterate my point from before: It would seem that studying Gandhi gave him a clearer understanding of ethics and love. Judging from his own words, it could be argued that had he not found Gandhi's teachings, he might not have been able to reach this clearer understanding.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Luther King, Jr.
"It was in this Gandhian emphasis on love and nonviolence that I discovered the method for social reform that I had been seeking for so many months. [...] I came to feel that this was the only morally and practically sound method open to oppressed people in their strugged for freedom." - p. 97
This last sentence seems to reinforce the notion that Dr. King truly believed that Gandhi's methods of nonviolence were the only moral and sound recourse. I think this is one of the strongest examples to use in supporting an argument that Dr. King might not have found his clearer understanding of nonviolence if he had not discovered Gandhi's teachings.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Martin Luther King, Jr.
American Negroes must come to the point where they can say to their white brothers, paraphrasing the words of Gandhi: 'We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with soul force. We will not hate you, but we cannot in all good conscience obey your unjust laws... - p. 217
Dr. King encourages his fellow African-Americans to quote Gandhi in their practice of nonviolence.

*****

The following quotes are from Stephen B. Oates' biography of Dr. King:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen B. Oates
With barely restrained enthusiasm, King embraced Satyagraha as the theoretical method he had been searching for. [...] King was convinced that Gandhi's was the only moral and practical way for oppressed people to struggle against social injustice. - p. 32
A reiteration of Dr. King's own words.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen B. Oates
"King thought Gandhi one of the great men of all time. 'He was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful effective social force on a large scale.'" - p. 32
Oates attributes Gandhi's methods as enabling Dr. King to reach so many people with his message of nonviolence, which is a notion that is supported by many who have studied Dr. King, including his own wife.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen B. Oates
In all, he [King] came home [from India] with a deeper understanding of nonviolence and a deeper committment as well. For him, nonviolence was no longer just a philosophy and a technique for social change; it was now a whole way of life. As Coretta said, he even tried to be more like Gandhi - more humble and spiritual than he had before. - p. 144
A reiteration of Mrs. King's beliefs on her husband's attitude towards and outlook on life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephen B. Oates
...he [King] still believed in Gandhi's Satyagraha as the salvation of the human race - as the great moral force that would bring on the brave new order he had long prophesied. - p 282
'Salvation of the human race' sounds pretty important, doesn't it? Now, this may be Oates' interpretation of Dr. King's beliefs, but given what Dr. King has actually said on the matter, it doesn't seem like such a far leap in thinking for this biographer to make.

*****
This was by no means an exhaustive case study, but I think it outlines the influence Gandhi had on Dr. King pretty well. It seems to me that Dr. King did more than just admire, quote and study Gandhi. He molded his entire thought processes on nonviolence and making it work for African-Americans on Gandhi's principles and ideals. For this reason, I think it would be at the very least fair to say that Gandhi had a significant influence on Dr. King's thoughts and beliefs.

*****
Sources:

King, Coretta Scott. My Life With Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 1993.

King, Martin Luther, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1958.

Oates, Stephen B., Let the Trumpet Sound: A Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994.




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