> Martin Luther King was born Michael King.
> He never did have his name legally changed. He took
>his father's name.
> He received his Ph.D. from Boston University, where he
>plagiarized his doctoral dissertation. He also plagiarized
>sections of STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM. This was his practice
>throughout his academic career. He regarded other men's
>words just as he regarded other men's wives: as ripe for
> His plagiarism has been known for a decade. It is
>discussed in detail by Theodore Pappas, who wrote a book
>about it: THE MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., PLAGIARISM STORY
>(Rockford, Illinois: Rockford Institute, 1994).
> Pappas has published examples of this in the book he
>edited, PLAGIARISM AND THE CULTURE WAR: THE WRITINGS OF
>MARTIN LUTHER KING AND OTHER PROMINENT AMERICANS (Halberg,
> The earliest warning that King was a plagiarist came
>from Ira Zepp, in an unpublished story, revealed that
>sections of King's book, STRIDE TOWARD FREEDOM, had been
>lifted from books written by two theologians.
> His plagiarism includes his Nobel Prize lecture, his
>"I have a Dream" speech, and his "Letter from a Birmingham
>Jail." One biographer called this activity "ghostwriting."
>(Note: authors pay ghostwriters for their work. King did
>not pay anyone for the purloined sections.) A chronology
>of the story of his plagiarism appears here:
> The first public revelation of King's plagiarized
>Ph.D. dissertation came in the LONDON TELEGRAPH (Dec. 3,
>1989). The story was suppressed in the U.S. until January,
>1991, when Pappas blew the lid off. (Theodore Pappas, "A
>Doctor in Spite of Himself: The Strange Career of Martin
>Luther King, Jr.'s Dissertation," CHRONICLES [Jan. 1991].)
>The appearance of this article forced the American press to
>admit what King had done, how the editor of King's papers
>had suppressed the fact for years, lying to those who
>inquired about this.
> The large number of plagiarized sources in everything
>King wrote and preached, from the beginning of his career,
>is visible in volume 1 of his PAPERS (Berkeley: University
>of California Press, 1992); the plagiarized originals
>appear in the footnotes. The publication of this volume
>was delayed for many years because of this public relations
> The response of the academic community and the media
>indicates that liberals' icons are not allowed to be
>publicly embarrassed, in life or posthumously. The
>CHRONICLES article led to a series of defenses of King's
>plagiarism, including an immediate one written by a Roman
>Catholic professor of metaphysics: George F. McLean,
>"King's Scholarship Was Central to His Vision," WALL STREET
>JOURNAL (Jan. 21, 1991).
> In 1992, an untenured English professor at Arizona
>State University, Keith Miller, had his book published: a
>defense of King's plagiarism, which he calls
>"intertextualizations," "incorporations," "borrowings,"
>"echoing," "resonances," and "voice merging." On the
>defense, see Keith Miller, VOICE OF DELIVERANCE: THE
>LANGUAGE OF MARTIN LUTHER KING JR., AND ITS SOURCES (New
>York: Free Press, 1992). This book was reviewed by Pappas,
>"A Houdini of Time," CHRONICLES (Nov. 1992).
> A faculty committee at Boston University, which
>awarded King the Ph.D., concluded in 1991 that the first
>half of his dissertation was 45 percent stolen, the second
>half was 21 percent stolen, but the thesis nonetheless
>remains legitimate and "an intelligent contribution to
>scholarship." The school did not revoke his degree.
>(Pappas, MARTIN LUTHER KING, p. 103.)
> Reed Irvine, who runs Accuracy in Media, a
>conservative media-monitoring organization, has summarized
> Theodore Pappas has written a piece for
> Chronicles magazine that should be required
> reading for every journalism student and
> journalist. It tells the story of how the media,
> including book publishers, tried to suppress the
> story of how famed civil rights leader Dr. Martin
> Luther King committed plagiarism -- stealing
> material from other people and claiming it as his
> own. For his role in bringing this to the
> public's attention, Pappas says he received three
> death threats, one left hook to the jaw and 40
> rejections from 40 publishers in 40 months. This
> is quite a record. When he finally found a
> publisher, the book's first edition was sold out.
> It carried the title, The Martin Luther King, Jr.
> Plagiarism Story.
> Pappas recounts his effort in publicizing the
> story in the May issue of Chronicles magazine,
> where he serves as managing editor. Pappas was
> the first journalist who exposed, with parallel
> quotations, how segments of King's Ph.D
> dissertation had been copied from a previous
> work. He estimates that 66 percent of King's
> dissertation was plagiarized. On top of
> revelations about King's womanizing, the
> plagiarism allegations served to demonstrate that
> while King postured as a paragon of moral virtue,
> he was in reality a scoundrel. This is not
> something that a lot of people wanted to hear.
> The Wall Street Journal, considered by some a
> conservative newspaper, heard the story was
> breaking and ran its own piece -- a whitewash of
> the charges against King. Even the Journal's
> editorial page tried to suppress the significance
> of the story by insisting that it had to be
> covered in a "carefully modulated" manner.
> Writing in the New Republic magazine, Charles
> Babington would later reveal that the Washington
> Post, the New York Times and the New Republic
> itself all had known the facts about King's
> plagiarism but refused to publish them. The
> Times eventually did cover the issue but in a
> subsequent editorial suggested that the
> plagiarism was somehow comparable to a politician
> using a ghost writer for speeches.
> Pappas's expanded version of the King Plagiarism
> Story has now been published by Hallberg
> Publishing Corporation under the title
> "Plagiarism and the Culture War." Regarding the
> publishers who rejected his original book and the
> new edition, Pappas says three of them said any
> criticism of King would be in "bad taste" because
> "King isn't around to defend himself." Pappas
> notes that such an approach would mean the end of
> historical studies and scholarship in general.
> He points out that such an attitude hasn't
> stopped various so-called "scholars" and
> academics from defaming one of our founding
> fathers, Thomas Jefferson. Apparently it's all
> right to bad-mouth Jefferson; after all, he was a
> white European male. But King, a black civil
> rights leader, has to be spared any criticism.
> This is the double-standard that infects the
> media today. . . .
> Prof. Trout of the University of Montana -- a fitting
>name for anyone who lives in Montana -- has written an
>excellent piece on how a rising tide of plagiarism is now
>undermining higher education. (Stealing from the Web is
>easy, but students can also buy essays on-line.) He
> One notorious plagiarism case -- involving,
> sadly, Martin Luther King, Jr. -- illustrates
> that some professors not only ignore plagiarism
> but excuse it.
> In 1991 a panel of scholars at Boston University
> ruled that Dr. King plagiarized parts of his 1952
> doctoral dissertation at BU by "appropriating
> material from sources not explicitly credited in
> notes, or mistakenly credited, or credited
> generally and at some distance in the text from a
> close paraphrase or verbatim quotation." A
> careful analysis of King's dissertation by
> Theodore Pappas revealed that over sixty percent
> was copied from an earlier dissertation.
> Clayborne Carson, director of the Martin Luther
> King, Jr. Papers Project, and professor of
> history at Stanford University, found
> additionally that King's student essays and
> published and unpublished addresses and essays
> all contain "numerous instances of plagiarism
> and, more generally, textual appropriation."
> When the charges became public, some professors
> -- both black and white -- rushed to palliate or
> deny King's wrongdoing. The most bald-faced
> effort came from the Acting President of Boston
> University (October 1990): "Dr. King's
> dissertation has, in fact, been scrupulously
> examined and reexamined by scholars...Not a
> single instance of plagiarism of any sort has
> been identified" (in Pappas Plagiarism 68).
> Taking a similar tack, the committee of BU
> academics found "no blatancy" in the plagiarism
> despite the fact that King appropriated page
> after page from other works.
> Others tried to palliate the offense by saying it
> was the result of "carelessness" (despite the
> fact that King had taken a graduate course in
> thesis writing). A few, like Keith D. Miller, an
> English professor at Arizona State University,
> notoriously argued that King merely had drawn on
> the oral traditions of the black church in which
> "voice merging" -- the blending of the words and
> ideas of those who spoke before -- is
> commonplace. A somewhat conflicted Professor
> Carson went further, describing King's "pattern
> of unacknowledged appropriation of words and
> ideas," which he does label "plagiarism," as a
> "legitimate utilization of political,
> philosophical, and literary texts" that allowed
> King "to express his ideas effectively using the
> words of others" via a "successful composition
> method." And Professor George McLean praised
> King's plagiarized dissertation as "a
> contribution in scholarship for which his
> doctorate was richly deserved" (in Pappas "Life
> and Times" 43). As Theodore Pappas points out,
> to say that [King's] doctorate was "richly
> deserved" when 66 percent of his dissertation was
> plagiarized is "absurd and dishonest" (Ibid.).
> But "absurdity" and "dishonesty" now often trump
> adherence to the academic creed. When confronted
> with irrefutable proof of plagiarism, what did
> many notable scholars do? In the words of Jacob
> Neusner, Distinguished Research Professor of
> Religious Studies at the University of South
> They lied, they told half-truths, they
> made up fables, they did everything
> they could but address facts; three
> enlightened individuals even threatened
> [Pappas's] life. In the face of their
> own university's rules against
> plagiarism, Boston University's
> academic authorities and professors
> somehow found excuses for King's
> plagiarism. They found extenuating
> circumstances, they reworded matters to
> make them sound less dreadful, they
> compromised their own university's
> integrity and the rules supposedly
> enforced to defend and protect the
> process of learning and the consequent
> degrees. They called into question the
> very standing of the university as a
> place where cheating is penalized and
> misrepresentation condemned (in Pappas,
> I 1).
> Jacob Neusner is probably the most prolific scholar in
>American history. Five or six years ago, I asked him to
>send me a copy of his published works. He did. The list
>was then over 30 single-spaced pages long. He is a
>publishing phenomenon like no other I am aware of. He has
>every right to complain about what King did.
> There is a common belief today that men's private sins
>should not be considered in our assessment of their public
>lives. This public philosophy can be summarized as
>follows: "Cigars shared between consenting adults don't
>count." It is always applied by liberals to liberals.
>Sometimes it applies to conservatives, unless the sins
>involve money, especially Political Action Committee money
>taken from business. But money taken by the Democratic
>National Committee from agents of Communist China is like
>Martin Luther King, Jr.'s plagiarism: irrelevant.
> There is a now-discarded phrase: "If a man will cheat
>on his wife, he will cheat on anyone." That is my view.
>That is the way I vote, when I vote.
> King was right about Rosa Parks. He was right about
>non-violence. But what he did to other men's wives, and to
>his own wife, was unconscionable. Also unconscionable was
>his career-long theft of the words that he stole for public
>use. But the liberals who dismiss all of this are worse,
>for they seek to make intellectual theft and adultery seem
>irrelevant. They prefer to undermine the ethics of
>civilization for the sake of politics and race.
> So, I am celebrating Martin Luther King Jr.'s holiday
>by working. It's the least I can do.
Other quotes on MLK from Theodore Pappas (Thanks
> Pappas has no trouble establishing the principal case
> against Luther King Jr., since a few lengthy excerpts from
> his doctoral thesis and an uncannily similar work at the
> same college, by the deliciously-named Jack Boozer, more
> than suffices. Luther King Jr. copied vast tracts of text
> from Boozer, even repeating citation errors in the
> original. It is especially poignant that this was work
> conducted in divinity.
[Birdman note: Boozer responded to the revelation of his thesis being plagaiarized by saying that he was 'honored' that King did it.]
> The author fails to do justice to the astounding
> coincidence that these theses shared an examiner. This may
> explain part of the obvious embarrassment felt by Boston
> University, who are forced to choose between explanations
> ranging from incompetence to conspiracy to commit fraud.
> This may provide satisfaction to those who have long
> suspected that nobody really reads doctoral theses anyway,
> least of all the examiners, and certainly not in the
> theology faculties.
> The plagiarism did not begin or end with the doctoral
> thesis, so much so that the Collected Papers of Luther
> King Jr. apparently devotes at least as much time to
> "uncited sources" as it does to his own work, if that is
> the correct description. Even the much celebrated "I have
> a dream" speech of 1963 was plagiarized. By a peculiar
> turn of events, the source King raided for this was a
> speech given to the Republican National convention of
> 1952, by a black preacher named Archibald Carey.
> The flip side of King's plagiarism was his unsuitableness
> for the roles and positions he had been promoted to. He
> had been selected for the doctoral program at Boston
> despite his inferior grades, not because of his academic
> potential but because he was well liked by his fellow
> students and the staff. Lacking the requisite ability, he
> got by on plagiarism.
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