This from the archival history of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a site that has a lot of information on the school (including a section called “Our Lore” that has a number of fun and interesting stories):
In April 1961, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, was gaining national fame for his work for racial equality, he visited Southern and spoke in chapel. Ethics professor Henlee Barnette, who invited Dr. King, remembered the event nearly forty years later. After an introduction by Ethics Professor Nolan Howington, King rose to speak.
“Dr. King slowly and quietly recognized Dr. Howington, members of the faculty, students, and visitors. Then he expressed his pleasure at being in the seminary chapel again. He noted that he had been in the chapel two or three times before with his mother who was organist for the Woman’s Auxiliary of the National Baptist Convention meeting on the campus.
The title of Dr. King’s prophetic and challenging message was The Church on the Frontier of Racial Tension. In this lecture, he observed that we were witnessing the passing of the old order and the emergence of a new age. With the decline of colonialism, new governments and countries were being born, especially in Africa…In conclusion King declared that we must have faith in the future, that problems can be solved, and that we have “Cosmic Companionship” in the task ahead of us. King closed with a typical peroration that characterizes many of his messages by noting that there is something in this universe which justifies the poet’s conviction that truth will triumph.
This speech was given in an academic setting, which perhaps accounts for a lack of the typical animation on the part of King in his concluding remarks. Through it all, he was calm, deliberate, articulate, serious. He delivered the whole message without a note, looking straight at the people in the pews who sat spellbound throughout the speech.”
King then spoke to a seminary ethics class for some time about his advocacy for equality and participated in several meetings in downtown Louisville, shuttling from place to place in a funeral home limousine with a police escort.
–From Barnette’s The Visit of Martin Luther King, Jr., Part Two, Review and Expositor
It is good to remember events like this, and also to note how King’s spiritual and theological convictions drove his advocacy on behalf of a just cause (see Denny Burk’s thoughts here). Christopher Hitchens was wrong. The Christian moral imagination has accomplished amazing feats of virtue and justice throughout the world’s history.
We remember that today.