American Prophet: The Inner Life and Global Vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.


Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences



American Prophet is a course about the inner life and thoughts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Many history books tell us that King was a civil rights leader who advocated for peaceful protest and made inspirational speeches. But what was he really thinking and feeling during the various campaigns in which he participated? How did he even become a civil rights leader in the first place? Was he really as confident about his methods as we think?

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The first introductory series of American Prophet consists of five episodes that provide an overview of King's private and public life. These episodes, which run every other week from January 12th to March 22nd, will feature the historical materials assembled by Carson and his colleagues for their definitive edition of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. Enrolled participants completing 70% of assignments for Episodes 1-5 by March 22nd will receive Statements of Accomplishment.

During the Spring, we will release an additional series of episodes that will provide a more comprehensive examination of King's life.


There are no prerequisites for this course.

Course Staff

Professor Clayborne Carson

Dr. Clayborne Carson

Clayborne Carson has devoted his professional life to the study of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the movements King inspired. Since receiving his doctorate from UCLA in 1975, Dr. Carson has taught at Stanford University, where he is now Martin Luther King, Jr., Centennial Professor of history and Ronnie Lott Founding Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to buy a textbook?

There are no required textbooks for this class. However, in each episode, we will present a list of optional recommended reading for those interested in delving further into the concepts we introduce.

Is it possible to earn a Statement of Accomplishment for this class?

You do have the opportunity to earn a Statement of Accomplishment for this course. There will be a short multiple choice quiz in each episode, and all you need to do to get the Statement is pass each quiz with at least a 60% score. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.