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American Prophet: The Inner Life and Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Course topic: 


American Prophet is a course about the inner life and thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many history books tell us that King was a civil rights leader who advocated for peaceful protest and made inspirational speeches. But what was he really thinking and feeling during the various campaigns in which he participated? How did he even become a civil rights leader in the first place? Was he really as confident about his methods as we think?

Over the coming weeks, we will address these questions and many others while exposing participants to one of the most important techniques in historical analysis: the use of primary source documents as windows into the past. There are thousands of documents about King that have been published, with more available online, and each one gives us insight into what his life was really like. In this course, we will focus on a few documents each week in order to both help participants learn the best strategies for understanding primary sources and leverage the information contained within them for our study of King. By the end of the course, participants will feel comfortable using documents as historical sources, appreciate who Dr. King was on a more personal level, and gain new skills in understanding the nuances of historical study.

The first introductory series of American Prophet consists of five episodes that provide an overview of King's private and public life. These episodes, which run every other week from January 12th to March 22nd, will feature the historical materials assembled by Carson and his colleagues for their definitive edition of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Enrolled participants completing 70% of assignments for Episodes 1-5 by March 22nd will receive Statements of Accomplishment.

During the Spring, we will release an additional series of episodes that will provide a more comprehensive examination of King's life.


There are no prerequisites for this course.


Professor Clayborne Carson

Dr. Clayborne Carson

Clayborne Carson has devoted his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements King inspired. Since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University, where he is now Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of history and Ronnie Lott Founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.


Do I need to buy a textbook?

There are no required textbooks for this class. However, in each episode, we will present a list of optional recommended reading for those interested in delving further into the concepts we introduce.

Is it possible to earn a Statement of Accomplishment for this class?

You do have the opportunity to earn a Statement of Accomplishment for this course. There will be a short multiple choice quiz in each episode, and all you need to do to get the Statement is pass each quiz with at least a 60% score. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.