Benjamin E. Mays


Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays (August 1, 1895 – March 28, 1984) was an American minister, educator, scholar, social activist and the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. He was also a significant mentor to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. and was among the most articulate and outspoken critics of segregation before the rise of the modern civil rights movement in the United States.

While working on his doctorate, Mays and Joseph Nicholson published a study entitled The Negro’s Church, the first sociological study of African-American religion and clerical practices. Four years later in 1938, he published The Negro’s God as Reflected in His Literature.

In 1926, he was appointed executive secretary of the Tampa, Florida Urban League. After two years at this post he became National Student Secretary of the YMCA.

Mays accepted the position of Dean of the School of Religion at Howard University in Washington, D.C. in 1934. At present, Mays Hall of Howard University is the home of the Howard University School of Divinity. During his six years there Mays traveled to India, where, at the urging of Howard Thurman, a fellow professor at Howard, he spoke at some length with Mahatma Gandhi.

In 1940, Mays became the president of Morehouse College. His most famous student there was Martin Luther King Jr. The two developed a close relationship that continued until King’s death in 1968; As his lifelong mentor, Mays delivered the eulogy for King.

Mays emphasized two themes throughout his life: the dignity of all human beings and the gap between American democratic ideals and American social practices. Those became key elements of the message of King and the American civil rights movement. Mays explored these themes at length in his book Seeking to Be a Christian in Race Relations, published in 1957.

After his retirement in 1967 from Morehouse, Mays was elected president of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education, where he supervised the peaceful desegregation of Atlanta’s public schools.

America Comes of Age – Part 1

America Comes of Age – Part 2

America Comes of Age – Part 3

America Comes of Age – Part 4

America Comes of Age – Part 5

Biography Clip


Every man and woman is born into the world to do something unique and something distinctive and if he or she does not do it, it will never be done.

It isn’t a disgrace not to reach the stars, but it is a disgrace to have no stars to reach for.

It must be borne in mind that the tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy of life lies in having no goal to reach.

Not failure, but low aim is sin.

Born to Rebel: An Autobiography by Benjamin Elijah Mays

Quotable Quotes of Benjamin E. Mays by Benjamin Mays

Dr. Benjamin E. Mays Speaks: Representative Speeches of a Great American Orator by Freddie C. Colston

Posthumous reflections: A letter to my mentor, Dr. Benjamin Elijah Mays by Fred C Lofton

Benjamin E. Mays: His Drive, His Mission – DVD

Benjamin E Mays/Educator– DVD

Benjamin E. Mays – VHS

Brick House Dreams: Young Benjamin E. Mays by Melvin De Gree

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