In 1979, historically Black Morehouse College invited Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan to speak to graduating students at the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.
The speaking engagement was an honor bestowed to few, and during his speech, Farrakhan spoke to students of religion, of duty to community, and education.
The Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel is the spiritual center of the Morehouse campus and is home to some of the college’s signature events, according to its website. The chapel also houses the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who graduated from Morehouse in 1948 at age 19 with a bachelor’s degree in sociology.
Farrakhan spoke in the chapel before 217 Morehouse graduates and a large baccalaureate audience.
“We are caretakers of life,” Farrakhan told the class of 1979, according to the Morehouse Bulletin Summer 1979. “God is the owner. The King who originated knowledge is God himself. Knowledge that does not develop character as it develops minds is no knowledge at all.”
He continued, “Education should never be education for education’s sake. You must study and go after wisdom from the cradle to the grave. Let this baccalaureate be a beginning. When you think you know, you have become a fool. God commands you to go after knowledge.”
Farrakhan encouraged the students to use their education to help their community. “The goal and aim of education is to make you a master of yourself. You can change factors in your environment. You must not be shaped by an environment that is contrary to the will of God. Your role as standard-bearers of knowledge is to be a servant of those who know not. Your role is to let knowledge bend you back to the earth with the knowledge of the Creator.”
Farrakhan was gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Million Man March when he later returned to Atlanta in 2015 to deliver messages to students of religion and college students. This time, he spoke at the Muhammad Mosque No. 15, southern regional headquarters of the Nation of Islam.
Black college students from Georgia and Alabama came to hear Farrakhan. They came from Clark Atlanta University, Spelman College, Georgia State University, Georgia Tech, the University of Georgia in Athens, Tuskegee University, and Morehouse.
Ironically, Farrakhan was not allowed to speak at Morehouse on this 2015 trip, The Final Call reported.
“The fact that Morehouse allowed him to come speak in 1979 for the graduation and here in 2015 denied him because of politics, we were disappointed in our institution because of that,” Vaughn Arterberry, 19, a Morehouse College freshman, who came to hear Farrakhan.
“It made me think about a lot of things like how some things can cause chemical reactions in your body and change the way you think,” she added.
During his 2015 speech, Farrakhan advised students not to spend their college years smoking, drinking, partying, and having sex, and to pick a major with an eye on the future, The Final Call reported.
Farrakhan also stopped at the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC) for a discussion with students of religion.
The ITC is a consortium of five predominantly African-American denominational Christian seminaries operating together as a professional graduate school of theology. It is the largest free-standing African-American theological school in the U.S.
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Farrakhan’s speech impressed many of the young attendees.
“It was on time,” said 17-year-old Anisah Muhammad. “I really enjoyed it because he really spoke to the students and he appealed to the students and most religious teachers. They don’t really care about the younger generation, they just care about the older generation. They think we’re like savages out there on the street not doing anything. So I really liked that he spoke to the students and he answered their questions,” she said.
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