From the Archives: “Dr. King Lectures on Three Dimensions of Life to Capacity Chapel Crowd”

Photo Courtesy of Greg Moyer ’06 on Twitter (@GregAtDson)

Photo Courtesy of Greg Moyer ’06 on Twitter (@GregAtDson)

“Many of the problems in the south today are caused because men are too occupied with…their own selfishness and political security, economic positions, and social status. If they would add breadth to length, the jangling discord would become a harmonious symphony”

  • Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at Dickinson College on April 1961 


Just over 60 years ago, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a capacity crowd at Allison Chapel on the “three dimensions of life,” which he defined length as “a natural and healthy concern with oneself”, breadth as “an outward concern for the welfare of others,” and height as “a reaching for God.”  

He defined segregation as a “system concerned mainly with a particular group of people who believe in ‘white supremacy’”, briefing the predominantly white Dickinson audience on racial discrimination in  southern states. King also pointed outside of the United States to “the starving masses” in India, to make the point that “All life is interrelated, and no nation today can live alone.” 

King’s speech was chronicled in that week’s issue of The Dickinsonian, warranting at the time only a column on the fourth page. Though he did not appear on the front page, the article notes his appearance on TIME Magazine’s list of the “most outstanding personalities of the year,” and acknowledges his rise to prominence as the president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, which was most famous for organizing the Montgomery bus boycotts in 1955 and 1956.  

King’s visit was reported amongst stories about the freshman plays, the Spring formal, and the social sciences honor society, but The Dickinsonian and the rest of the campus would later come to understand King’s gravitas better, devoting an entire issue to the civil rights leader upon his assassination in 1968.  

King visited Dickinson College’s campus in 1961, but his words that day resound even in 2022, as racial discrimination and the lack of concern for the welfare of others continue to influence our communities in the United States and around the world. If you are interested in learning more about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Dickinson, be sure to check out the other Dickinsonian articles linked below.

The Dickinsonian (November 20, 1959) – King announced as future speaker at the College

The Dickinsonian (October 7, 1960) – “Great Preacher” series detailed (lineup includes King)

The Dickinsonian (March 24, 1961) – King to speak at Dickinson soon

The Dickinsonian (April 14, 1961) – King speaks at Dickinson

The Dickinsonian (April 8, 1968) – Special issue in response to King’s assassination