Drawing on archival materials and interviews, this book investigates Martin Luther King Jr.'s years at the Crozer Theological Seminary, where his courses, relationships, and early preaching laid the intellectual foundation for the future Nobel laureate.
More than anything else, it’s Mr. Parr’s willingness to dig that impresses and makes The Seminarian an original, much-needed and even stirring book about King’s formative years at Crozer. King’s decision to go to a small, mostly white school in Chester, Pa., and study with an all-white, largely liberal faculty would have profound effects on this son of an Atlanta minister. If Mr. Parr were a basketball player, he’d be King’s opposite. There’s no flash to his game. His prose never rises above the rim. But he hustles and does all the little things right. He lists every class that King took at Crozer and goes into detail on the most important ones, describing the courses and professors who helped shape one of the 20th century’s great leaders ... Those details may be useful for future historians, and Mr. Parr deserves credit for leaving no page in King’s academic record unturned. But his significant contribution is in helping us understand what made this young man extraordinary and in taking on subjects that might prove difficult to stomach for those who worship King ... The revelations about King’s love life and academic fraud may garner the headlines ... the book’s real achievement is in charting King’s intellectual and spiritual development, building a compelling case that the black church was not King’s only foundation.
Neither a hero-worshipping accolade nor an attempt at debunking admiration of his subject, Parr shows us a warts-and-all, very human King going through adolescence and young adulthood, a time when King was not a national figure ... Written in a smooth and eminently readable style and providing unprecedented and important material, The Seminarian is certainly a go-to book for anyone researching King's life. It's also a highly interesting work of non-fiction for the general reader, or anyone interested in the life of America's most famous civil rights leader.
King’s three years at the Crozer Theological Seminary, south of Philadelphia, marked an important turning point in his life and are well worth the exclusive focus they get in this compact, readable and well-researched book ... Parr’s most interesting revelations trace King’s growth as a preacher and public speaker ... Presumably, readers will come to a book called The Seminarian expecting to discover how three years in divinity school influenced King’s religious and political ideas. On this score, Parr offers course catalog descriptions and some vivid stories, but not much in-depth reflection. He relates unpleasant episodes at local diners that stoked King’s anger at Northern racism ... King’s vision of himself as a 'drum major for justice' also had much in common with the Old Testament prophets, whom he studied in depth at Crozer. Here, too, Parr offers little analysis, but he does leave readers with a memorable image.