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Mays is best known as an educator associated with Morehouse College, where he served as president for more than 40 years. His roots in poverty, born of illiterate parents a few years before the turn of the nineteenth century, formed the moral basis for his life's work as he became the guiding light for the twentieth-century civil rights movement. Born in Edworth, South Carolina, rooted in a rural Baptist tradition, he merged a nontraditional pursuit of higher education and the ministry by attending urban northern institutions, Bates College in Lewiston, Maine, and the University of Chicago, where he earned a PhD in theology. However, it was the black colleges of Howard and Morehouse where Mays sought to impart racial justice through a black theology that undercut all biblical or Christian doctrinal justification for segregation. In his pursuit, Mays was an important, if often underacknowledged, figure in shaping the modern civil rights movement. Mays' involvement with and study of Gandhi's nonviolent movement helped to shape the context for his student Martin Luther King Jr. to integrate the moral, nonviolent base of the American civil rights movement.--Ford, Vernon Copyright 2010 Booklist