Martin Luther King Was A Great Man Who Clearly Plagiarized His PhD Dissertation (and this plagiarism was probably known by his thesis adviser)

I share the sentiments of most people: Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man. Since I am a rather odd history and politics buff, I will list some little talked about peculiarities concerning his life or his family that I have picked up over the years, with perhaps the strangest one being the clear plagiarism of his PhD dissertation that was almost certainly known by his thesis adviser.

I would also like to dispel the sensationalist conclusion of William F. Pepper in his 2003 book An Act of State:The Execution of Martin Luther King (which I read back when it came out) that King was assassinated by the U.S. government. Mel Ayton's article in 2005 "The Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination: What Really Happened? addresses Pepper's wild accusations.

Facts that mainstream media rarely mention about Martin Luther King or his family:
  • Martin Luther King, Jr.'s plagiarism of Jack Boozer's PhD dissertation
  • Jesse Jackson lying about MLK dying in his arms telling Jesse(in King's supposed last few seconds of life) that he should take over as leader of the civil rights movement
  • Strange deaths of others in MLK's family after his assassination
    • his mother, Alberta Williams King , was shot dead on 1974 June 30
    • his younger brother, Rev. Albert Daniel Willams King , died in 1969 by supposedly drowning in a swimming pool
      • According to Time magazine: "Died. The Rev. A. D. Williams King, 38, younger brother of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and himself an active civil rights leader; of accidental drowning in his swimming pool; in Atlanta.For years, "A.D.," as he was called, worked in his brother's shadow as an organizer and detail man. In 1963, after the Ku Klux Klan bombed his home, he led movements for racial integration in Birmingham and open housing in Louisville. In 1968, he assumed his slain brother's co-pastorate at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. "
  • The surviving two nuclear family members show relatively mainstream political beliefs and behavior
    • the father, Martin Luther King, Sr.
      • the wikipedia entry says "lifelong registered Republican, and had endorsed Republican Richard Nixon, switched his support to Kennedy"
    • the wife, Coretta Scott King
      • has publicly met with U.S. Presidents, including recently George W. Bush
  • Coretta Scott King, for a life supposedly spent honoring her dead husband and the civil rights movement, has restricted the spread of MLK's speeches by demanding high licensing fees ; critics have accused some of these speeches as well to have occasional plagiarized passages (though the speeches were not plagiarized to the same extent as his dissertation). Was she aware of the plagiarism and trying to limit public access of her husband's works by charging high licensing fees?
    • Coretta also sued Boston University over the use of MLK's papers. BU researchers first discovered the extensive plagiarism of King's dissertation, but ended up publicly stating that the plagiarism was minimal or accidental (probably so Coretta would not yank the papers and so that BU would not lose prestige for awarding a PhD with such a plagiarized dissertation)
  • The FBI (under J. Edgar Hoover) spied on MLK in case he was a communist, supposedly recorded him committing adultery ; civil rights leader and friend Reverend Ralph Abernathy also acknowledged MLK's adultery in his autobiography in 1989 before dying the following year
  • "Martin" Luther King, Jr.'s name at birth was "Michael" or "Mike" up until the age of 22 ; his father's birth name was Michael
  • Although he died at 39, at autopsy, King had the heart of a 60 year old


A few years back, I wondered if the allegations were true, and actually bothered to look at the bloody two dissertations instead of relying on newspapers or believing Boston University's take that MLK occasionally confused his notes with the work of others when writing his paper. My interest bordered on those of an artist: "hey, even if he did plagiarize, maybe he was trying to secretly make a point." Artists pay homage to previous artists, or another take by director Quentin Tarantino is,
"Great artists don't pay homage, they steal." MLK is also a complicated figure: hero peace activist, assassinated by a racist (though Dexter King believes the racist didn't kill MLK), husband who cheated on his wife, plagiarizer, and before coming out against Vietnam he was flown on free flights on private jets of Coca-Cola corporation.

I did not do an in-depth analytical study; I simply flipped through the two dissertations a few years ago:
MLK's was A comparison of the conception of God in the thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman(1955) and
Jack S. Boozer's was The Place of Reason in Paul Tillich's Concept of God(1952)

My conclusions:
  • Even at-a-glance, MLK clearly plagiarized MOST of Boozer's paper, perhaps about two-thirds of it, with entire passages and sections lifted from the original. But MLK's was also longer, and seemed more complete for whatever reason; maybe because he added onto Boozer's, perhaps? The Table of Contents was often copied verbatim, but some sections had added subsections, like if Boozer's paper had 3 points in the TOC, MLK's paper may have 5 points. And (I think) MLK had concluding sections and some other sections which were added or different.
      • There are quite a few websites out there on MLK's plagiarism like http://chem-gharbison.unl.edu/mlk/thesis.html , some others filled with vitriol declaring MLK an evil communist, others are university websites giving students examples as to how NOT to write papers and cite sources. The wikipedia entry on MLK's plagiarism is here.
  • I also tried to find information/books by JACK S. BOOZER to find out who he was,as well as his opinion on MLK. Boozer was a CHAPLAIN IN THE MILITARY during WWII who published in 1984 (of all years!) the autobiography EDGE OF MINISTRY...THE CHAPLAIN STORY detailing his lifetime as a Methodist military chaplain from 1945 to 1980. I don't know if he knew about the plagiarism or not at the time (to my knowledge, Boozer has never commented about plagiarism). I looked for references to MLK in the book, and found that he was mentioned briefly maybe once or twice, but only in a positive manor (maybe praise that MLK was a man of peace?), but certainly writing nothing negative or even controversial about MLK. I remembered the book was an enjoyable read at the time.
  • AS FAR AS TO THE CONTENT OF MLK'S DISSERTATION CONCEALING SECRET MESSAGES: I found the content to be so MIND-BLOWINGLY BORING and esoteric compared to anything else I had ever read from MLK, that I couldn't get myself to actually read through each dissertation in detail. So, unless Paul Tillich or Henry Wieman have something Earth-shattering in their theological philosophies which I could not catch using some web searches years ago or scanning those two dissertations, I'm dumbfounded why such an ambitious, soon-to-be world famous man like MLK wrote, even plagiarized, such a mundane thesis topic.
    • Quote: http://www.academia.org/store/plagiarism_culture_war.html
      "Many readers might wonder why King, an intelligent and capable man, would cheat his way to a Ph.D. Of more relevance is the question of why faculty let him do it. King’s doctoral advisor also played the same role with Jack Boozer. He approved Boozer’s paper in 1952 and just three years later stamped his imprimatur on King’s purloined dissertation. "
    • So there's no way that the professor who approved the final dissertation did not know about the plagiarism at the time unless HE HAD NEVER READ THEM. Even I could see the plagiarism by just GLANCING at the two. (Maybe this is why Boston University refused to revoke MLK's PhD because of the even greater scrutiny that BU would have been under, creating an expert panel, and one scholar concluding absurdly that "the practice falls within the tradition of "African-American folk preaching.")
      • Quote: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.#Plagiarism
        "Beginning in the 1980s, questions have been raised regarding the authorship of King's dissertation, other papers, and his speeches. Concerns about his doctoral dissertation at Boston University led to a formal inquiry by university officials, which concluded that approximately a third of it had been plagiarized from a paper written by an earlier graduate student[52], but it was decided not to revoke his degree, since the paper still "makes an intelligent contribution to scholarship." While some have criticized King for his plagiarism, Keith Miller has argued that the practice falls within the tradition of "African-American folk preaching", and should not necessarily be labeled plagiarism. However, as Theodore Pappas points out in his book Plagiarism and the Culture War, King in fact took a class on scholarly standards and plagiarism at Boston University. "

So how do the plagiarisms of King's dissertation affect how we should view the course of his life?
  • Some possible scenarios (including some very strange ones out of the Twilight Zone):
    • 1.In too much of a hurry to get to Birmingham to aid the movement, which was more important...and he was a lazy "scholar"?
    • 2. The U.S. government was secretly sympathetic to the civil rights movement because the apartheid of the South was a world-wide embarrassment to the superpower . The U.S. government supported and maybe even sponsored MLK indirectly over the years (except for when he came out on Vietnam, which actually reduced his public influence by making MLK and the civil rights movement less popular among average citizens).
      • The first integrated aspect of the United States occurred when President Truman desegregated the Army.
      • President Kennedy favored integrating universities but avoided too many public statements because doing so would not have been politically popular (especially in the South) which would have been a mistake considering his margin of victory in the election was slim.
      • The FBI is well-known for going after racists like the Ku Klux Klan (KKK)
    • 3. MLK was a federally-funded disinformation agent, MLK was using them as well as them using him, & eventually turned on the feds with Vietnam issue; MLK was a lazy scholar, and the thesis was faked to give MLK a PhD's credentials .
    • 4. The BU dissertation adviser is a poor professor who did not read Boozer's PhD dissertation because of his World War II credentials, and gave Boozer an easy pass, and so did not catch MLK's plagiarism when it happened three years later.
    • 5. MLK played a joke on the professor because he heard stories that the advisers never even bother to read their bullsh*t papers. (Sci-fi writer Michael Crichton in his autobiography Travels mentions that in college he plagiarized something (an essay or poetry) because he thought the Harvard professor was an as*hole who was not even well-read in his field; Crichton got away with it. Crichton also says he's seen strange phenomenon like auras and spoon-bending as well though http://www.michaelcrichton.com/qa-travels.html so uh that's unusual for a guy who graduated from Harvard Medical School)
    • 6. The CIA planted Jack Boozer's faked dissertation to discredit MLK after the assassination or in the 1980s. "Boozer" was a military chaplain who spent his entire life with the military supposedly. Boozer has never publicly commented about MLK's plagiarism or the reasons for the plagiarism...so apparently (as far as I know) NO NEWSPAPER BOTHERED TO CONTACT THE MAN WHO MLK SUPPOSEDLY RIPPED OFF ?

Mel Ayton's article in 2005 "The Martin Luther King Jr. Assassination: What Really Happened? addresses William F. Pepper's wild allegations.
  • Ayton has many good points, three of which are:
    • many witnesses throughout James Early Ray's life knew him as a vehement racist;
    • the U.S. government had no plausible motive to want to kill MLK (and set off race riots)
    • Pepper's 1999 4-week civil trial against Jowers (in an attempt to exonerate Ray) was a joke because "Jowers's lawyer never disputed the contentions of the King lawyers" because Jowers was told that Pepper was ultimately seeking only a minor $100 fine against him. Ayton writes "As the jury heard no evidence to rebut the conspiracy theory, it was inevitable it would return a verdict favorable to Pepper and the King family. The trial was, effectively, bogus. "
I would add that (contrary to conventional wisdom), by coming out against the Vietnam War, King actually reduced his public influence by making himself as well as the civil rights movement less popular among average citizens. According to polls at the time, King's popularity fell after he came out against the Vietnam War. Why would the U.S. government then make a martyr of someone who already was declining in popularity and influence?

This post was last edited 12/22/2007 at 2:51 P.M.