Benjamin E. Mays Quotes
Benjamin Elijah Mays was an American civil rights icon and minister who helped lead the civil rights movements of the 1950s and 1960s. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil and political rights of African Americans in America.
Born in Ninety Six, South Carolina, Mays graduated from Bates College in Lewiston, Maine and the University of Chicago. He began his career in activism as a pastor in the Shiloh Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia. After receiving his doctorate, he went on to teach at Morehouse College, before being appointed dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in 1934. In 1940, he was appointed to serve as the President of Morehouse College where over his 27 years as head he saw the doubling of the campus, quadrupling of the endowment, and garnered a national reputation for the college. After stepping down in 1967, he continued his work in the African American community by becoming a leader within the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the World Council of Churches. Due to his increased public status in the U.S. he was asked to serve as an adviser to U.S. Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Jimmy Carter. He was elected as the first African-American President of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education and in line with the Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education Supreme Court order, desegregated the public school system of Atlanta.
His connection with fellow civil rights leader, Martin Luther King Jr., spanned King's early days at Morehouse in 1944. King was known as Mays' "spiritual son" and Mays his "intellectual father." After King's famous "I Have A Dream" speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963, Mays gave the benediction. Upon the 1968 death of King, he was asked to give the eulogy where he described him in his "No Man is Ahead of His Time" speech.
Mays' contributions to the civil rights movement have had him hailed as the "movement’s intellectual conscience," and his presence in academia often lead him to be named the "Dean of the Movement." Historian Lawrence Carter described Mays as "one of the most significant figures in American history." Dozens of buildings, statues, awards, streets, scholarships, and fellowships have been named in his honor and as of April 2017, he has 56 honorary degrees. In 2002, he was listed among the 100 Greatest African Americans and is one of the 12 inductees in the Schomburg Honor Roll of Race Relations.