The oldest son of a Baptist minister, King graduated from Atlanta’s Morehouse College at nineteen, received a divinity degree from a theological seminary, and earned a doctorate at Boston University in 1955. During his student years, he searched for ways to emancipate African Americans from the bondage of segregation and became interested in the potential of Christian love to effect social change. King’s search ended when he attended a lecture on Mahatma Gandhi, who led India’s nationalist movement against British rule. Gandhi was not interested in defeating the British, but in redeeming them through love.
The reconciliation of power and love, which Gandhi called satyagraha, provided a philosophical basis for his strategy of nonviolent resistance to unjust laws. King equated Gandhi’s concept of satyagraha with agape, the Greek word for Christian love. He left the lecture convinced that the liberation of African Americans could be achieved through nonviolent resistance predicated upon the power of brotherly love.