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Sartre, Jean-Paul

b. 1905 - d. 1980

Jean-Paul Sartre was an existentialist philosopher, writer and literary critic. Becoming professor of philosophy at Le Havre in 1931, he taught briefly at the Lycée Pasteur in Paris from 1937 to 1939. Existentialism, as defined by Sartre, means that human beings define their own existence and that our morality is determined by our ability to choose, without interference of a higher power. Sartre declined a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1964 (the year Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize), saying a writer should speak his mind and "not allow himself to be turned into an institution.” Sartre allied himself with the leading writers, intellectuals and fighters for African independence. He denounced the racism of France and the U.S., condemning racism’s influence on the foreign policies and internal politics of both. Sartre’s existentialism helped shape Dr. King’s understanding of segregation.

Associated Archive Content : 3 results


Dr. King outlines concepts of existentialism as viewed through the doctrine of French existentialist writer Jean Paul Sartre.

Letter from PLAYBOY Magazine to MLK

Playboy Editorial Director A.C. Spectorsky requests comments from Dr. King regarding Kenneth Tynan's article "Open Letter to an American Liberal," which accompanies the letter.

Pilgrimage to Nonviolence

Dr. King's essay "Pilgrimage to Nonviolence" provides a replete account of the thinkers, ideas and sentiments responsible for his pledge to nonviolence.