Brown first met King in San Francisco after riding with Evers cross-country to an NAACP meeting, where the 15-year-old Brown was a youth leader from Mississippi. Here he recalls King's class and the sit-ins taking place in Atlanta at the time:
The class was in the chapel on the second floor. What I remember most from that class is Rousseau's "Social Contract." I actually have the notes from that class written in Dr. King's own hand. They are in an old Blue Horse notebook that cost 25 cents. You know that's got to be old then, right? There is also an interesting price list in his hand. It looks like he was raising money for an event.
We also learned about Plato's "Republic" and Kant and Hume. Also I remember we talked a lot about Dr. (Edgar) Brightman at Boston University, whose writings had a great influence on Dr. King when he talked about personalism -- the idea that every person was imbued with worth and dignity and metaphysics.
The class itself was a little more intense than my other studies, and yet we related the experiences we had in the context of this philosophy.
I had already been to jail with Dr. King and his brother. We all got sent to the prison farm to work. We were there for 10 days. But we continued staging sit-ins at Rich's (department store) and Woolworth. It was incredible. But the class itself, it was a little more intense, especially the moments in which we related the experiences that we had.
We also had a kneel-in at the white First Baptist Church. Kids from Georgia Tech and Spelman and Morehouse decided to go in. I organized it. I was privy to the floor plan and knew to sit right up front. Other students who had stayed in the back got thrown right out with the aid of the ushers. They let those of us in the front stay since the TV cameras were there.
I actually met my wife-to-be on the steps of that church. She was one of the Spelman students who was thrown out. After that I helped organize several other protests. We integrated Savannah beach. We called that one a "wade-in."
When I interviewed to go to school at Morehouse, I knew that's where I wanted to be. When I got in, I had a professor who was the same speech teacher that taught Dr. King. I was so happy -- I got A's in that class. But when (King) took it he didn't do so well. Can you imagine? I had been speaking for a while though.
When I was 17 years old, I gave my first sermon. I still remember it to this day. I talked about how important it was to stay true, how important it was not being disobedient to the vision. I urged them to take a stand others can't see.
Graham Prindle: 'A hot spring of ideas'
After graduating from high school, Graham Prindle hit the road with a friend. They were hitchhiking to all four corners of the country. It was in the South where Prindle, who is white, said he first really understood racism. The "colored only" signs left him deeply disturbed. He had been involved in a youth movement, the National Student Association -- which he says was "a CIA front" -- but his first serious act to support civil rights was to quit a good-paying job in New York and move to Atlanta to take King's class.
He would only spend a year at Morehouse; eventually he completed an undergraduate degree at Antioch. He went on to work at IBM as a computer programmer and spent many years in San Francisco witnessing the radical changes the youth movement brought. But he says that semester in King's class was one of the most important times in his life.
I guess I didn't ever picture myself in a classroom full of black people in Atlanta until about two weeks before it happened. I was low-profile on purpose in there. I said something to my sister about it recently: Instead of being a fly on the wall there, maybe I should have been thought of as a white moth.
When I met Dr. King in this class, I think it hadn't been more than a year since he had come up from Montgomery to be associate pastor of his dad's church, and this was the first time he was living full-time in Atlanta. When they got wind of that, I'm told, the people at Morehouse recruited him to teach this course.
The class itself was a pretty open discussion. Dr. King was not pushing a particular viewpoint so much as exploring the possible viewpoints of social philosophy. The question that kept coming up from the students is, "Is nonviolence just a tactic you deploy when your adversary is susceptible to it? Or is it a piece of ideology you hold to for other reasons?" He never definitively came down on one side or the other but encouraged the discussion of the viewpoints between the rest of us.
Some may have worried that the class was a recruiting tool or something for the movement, but it was less of a recruiting tool than you might think. Most of the people in the class had already been recruited for the movement.
I don't remember any problem of getting into the class when I enrolled at Morehouse. I think you just signed up. Somehow you worked out a roster of classes, and it was no harder than the others to get into. A little footwork was also done on my behalf.
But the class, it was different. There were so many ideas. For most of it he was sitting down at a desk. He did not lecture; he did not speechify at us. That was one of my few reservations about taking the class, that I was going to get preached at for the semester. But no, he absolutely was self-effacing, at least to my retrospective view, and I was keeping a low profile trying to get a sense of what people in the class, the Julian Bond generation, were feeling. He was very light-handed about it and let people talk.
You know, I didn't see a great deal of him, the real him, in his public persona, except in television later on, of course. My sense is that he had the preacherly tradition on the one hand, and that came through in his voice and his mannerisms in public, and then there was this political or philosophical openness to good ideas.
It certainly struck me as a sane and civilized way of teaching, and I stayed a little bit braced against the preacherly until I saw how he was doing the class, and I was just relaxed then. I tell you I paid less attention to him than I did to the students. I was interested in the variety of viewpoints and stages of thought that people were going through, and he facilitated that in a way that if he had been running the class, I wouldn't have been able to get that sense.