There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Lewis V. Baldwin | Go to book overview

5
STANDING IN THE SHOES OF JOHN
A BEARER OF THE BLACK
PREACHING TRADITION

The preacher is the most unique personality developed by the
Negro on American soil. A leader, a politician, an orator, a
“boss,” an intriguer, an idealist—all these he is, and ever, too,
the centre of a group of men, now twenty, now a thousand in
number.

W. E. B. DuBois, 1903'

The Negro today is, perhaps, the most priest-governed group
in the country.

James Weldon Johnson, 19272

I'm the son of a preacher, I'm the great-grandson of a
preacher, and the great-great-grandson of a preacher. My fa-
ther is a preacher. My grandfather was a preacher. My great-
grandfather was a preacher. My only brother is a preacher.
My daddy's brother is a preacher. So I didn't have much
choice, I guess.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 19673

Lord, bless the man who is gonna stand in the shoes of John
this morning, to declare the truth between the living and the
dead. Let him down into your storehouse of knowledge, and
crown him with wisdom and understanding.

from a traditional black prayer4

Martin Luther King, Jr., was a versatile individual, talented in a great number of different endeavors. He

1. John Hope Franklin, ed., The Souls of Black Folk in Three Negro
Classics
(New York: Avon Books, 1965; originally published in 1903), 338.

2. James Weldon Johnson, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons
in Verse
(New York: Viking Press, 1969; originally published in 1927), 3.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Early Days,” excerpts of a sermon
delivered at Mt. Pisgah Missionary Baptist Church, Chicago, 111. (The
Archives of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social
Change, Inc., Atlanta, Ga., 27 August 1967), 9.

4. These lines were taken from prayers given by my father, the Rev.
L. V. Baldwin, Sr., and others—prayers I heard as a boy while growing up
in Camden, Ala. Larry G. Murphy, “'God Got You Now': Conversion

-273-

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There Is a Balm in Gilead: The Cultural Roots of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Cast Down Your Bucket Back Home to an Old Southern Place 15
  • 2: Walk Together,Children Family Heritage 91
  • 3: How I Got Over Roots in the Black Church 159
  • 4: Up, You Mighty Race! the Black Messianic Hope 229
  • 5: Standing in the Shoes of John 273
  • Conclusion 337
  • Index 340
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