September 28, 2007

University observes 40th anniversary of MLK visit to campus

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Photo by Erhardt Krause - Sacramento Bee Photo by Erhardt Krause - Sacramento Bee

Forty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. shared his dream with Sacramento State students when he visited the campus and spoke before a group of thousands.

A bit of the dream will be relived when the University pays tribute to that visit with a series of remembrance events Oct. 16.

Dr. King came to the campus Oct. 16, 1967 after receiving an invitation from the University’s Cultural Programs Committee.

“There was a newly-minted civil rights bill, a new voting rights bill, race riots, unrest and a host of other things happening,” says Kim Harrington, MLK observance committee chairperson. “The faculty and students were trying to figure out what was going on. They wanted to talk to the person they felt could answer their questions, so they sent a letter to King, and he responded. He actually put us on his path. He was going to San Francisco then to Los Angeles and he included us.”

King’s visit drew a crowd estimated at 7,000 to what was then the soccer field and is now the Alex Spanos Sports Complex.

“From talking to people who were there, there was no entourage, just his traveling companion, Bernard Lee,” says Harrington. “Dean Dorn, faculty emeritus, picked him up at the airport. He came to the campus, sat and chatted for a moment with State Senator Mervyn Dymally and Oak Park City Councilman Milton McGee, then delivered his speech.”

The 40th anniversary celebration events include keynote speeches by Dr. Clayborne Carson, a history professor at Stanford University and the director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute and Juan Williams, author and senior correspondent on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition.

During his undergraduate years at UCLA, Carson participated in civil rights and antiwar protests. In 1985, the late Coretta Scott King invited Carson to direct a long-term project to edit and publish the papers of King. His first book, In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, examines the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a high-profile, student-led civil rights organization.

Williams was host of NPR's national call-in show, Talk of the Nation, from 2000-2001. He is the author of the nonfiction bestseller, Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965. It is the companion volume to the critically-acclaimed television series of the same name. During his 21-year career at The Washington Post, Williams served as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist and White House reporter. He received an Emmy award for TV documentary writing.

Other King observance activities include a performance by the Department of Theatre and Dance, music by the Sacramento Metropolitan Gospel Choir, and a dance performance by the Sacramento Black Art of Dance troupe.

Martin Luther King Observance events:

10 a.m., welcome and reflection with short comments about King from faculty and administrators.

Noon-3:45 p.m., panel discussion with Dr. Carson, Juan Williams, faculty and students.

6:30-9 p.m., King Observance featuring keynote speeches by Dr. Carson and Williams and performances by various groups.

All events are in the University Union Ballroom. Events are free and open to the community.

For more information on the Martin Luther King Observance, contact Harrington at (916) 278-6327. For media assistance, contact Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156.