Beloved Community: Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman, and Josiah Royce

Kipton Jensen and Preston King

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Jensen, K., King, P. (2017) Beloved Community: Martin Luther King, Howard Thurman, and Josiah Royce. AMITY: The Journal of Friendship Studies, 4:1, pp. 15-31. doi: 10.5518/AMITY/20


Martin Luther King’s primary emphasis was upon ‘beloved community,’ a phrase he borrowed from Royce, but an idea that he shared with St. Augustine. Theories of the state tend to focus upon division, in which one stratum dominates another or others. King’s context is the US in the segregated South—a region whose internal divisions sharply instantiate the idea of the state as an unequal hierarchy of dominance. King’s appeal was less to end black subjugation than to end subjugation as such. Hence King was called by some a ‘dreamer,’ given his background commitment to equality and community, ideals taking marginal precedence over his foreground commitment to liberty and autonomy. This article explores the notion of ‘beloved community’ broadly and then specifically in Martin Luther King along with related notions in Howard Thurman (1900-1981) and in Josiah Royce (1855-1916).

Keywords: Martin Luther King; Howard Thurman; Josiah Royce; Beloved Community; Equality; Desegregation.

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