Dr. King received his Doctor of Philosophy degree in 1955 from Boston University in religion/theology from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation research focused on a comparison of the conception of God in the thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman. While pursuing his doctoral degree, during the final stages of his dissertation, he worked as a pastor at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where he requested support from church leaders (in the form of time allowance and travel expenses) to complete his doctoral studies. In addition to Dr. King gaining practical relevant experience while pursuing doctoral studies, there are several other notable important facts about his scholarly experience in U.S. doctoral education as highlighted in a report of US Doctorates in 20th Century published by the National Science Foundation (2006):
- King’s doctoral degree in religion/theology represents 1 of the 5339 doctoral degrees conferred in this field between 1920 and 1999.
- King’s academic experience as a Morehouse College Alumnus is significantly characteristic of the undergraduate preparation for Blacks/African Americans pursuing doctoral degrees in 1950’s (and representative of doctoral degree completion in decades that follow).
- According to the National Science Foundation’s study of U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, HBCUs occupied 33 of the top 50 positions on the list of baccalaureate institutions of U.S. black Ph.D.s who graduated between 1975 and 1999. Howard University, an HBCU, occupied the first position, by a wide margin, for both the periods 1975–99 and 1995–99. Forty-one percent of blacks who earned doctorates in the period 1975–99 received their bachelor’s degrees from among the 50 top-listed institutions.
- While King received his baccalaureate degree from an HBCU, his doctoral degree experience at Boston University is unique; veering away from traditional HBCU institutional paths toward doctoral degree completion.
- King was a member of a small cohort (1 of 7) of doctoral degree completers who would receive a Nobel Peace Prize for peace. A look at Nobel Prize winners during the 20th century illustrates the value of the U.S. doctoral system and the lasting influences of its graduates. Between 1901 and 1999, 162 Americans with doctorates from U.S. universities received 164 Nobel Prizes: 57 prizes for physics, 41 for chemistry, 34 for physiology or medicine, 25 for economics, and 7 for peace.
National Science Foundation, Division of Science Resources Statistics, U.S. Doctorates in the 20th Century, NSF 06-319, Lori Thurgood, Mary J. Golladay, and Susan T. Hill (Arlington, VA 2006).
Information compiled and written by Pamela Felder, Ph.D., Founder of #BlackDoctoratesMatter