Martin Luther King, Jr

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a prominent figure known globally for his efforts as a civil rights advocate in the United States. King was the second African-American to receive the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize and the leader of the March on Washington, D.C. His diplomatic and powerful addresses exhibited nationwide as he pushed for racial equality in America.

On January 19, 1968, K-State had the honor of hosting King as an all-University Convocation speaker, an event in which he presented his speech “The Future of Integration.” Over 7,000 people attended this presentation in Ahearn Field House as he addressed the state of racial inequality in our nation, the progress made since the time of slavery, and the progress still needed to solve the issue. Elaborating and identifying the history and injustices that had befallen such a large range of our national community, he made it clear that our country needed to come to terms with an uncomfortable, yet critical, truth that could no longer be overlooked or pushed aside.

King reinforced the importance of pushing for change through non-violent protests and actions. He reasoned that it was “the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and human dignity.” His address also expressed his opposition to the Vietnam War. He felt we had greater problems to solve on the home front, especially since war efforts appeared futile and incapable of reaching success. Quoting poverty and civil rights as primary issues, he added that the expanse of money funneled into the war effort would have been better utilized for these problems instead.

In spite of the issues he addressed, King acknowledged the students and their generation for the hope they brought him. With each college visit, in conversations with students, he felt the younger generation had a better understanding of the issues at hand. “It is the student generation that is saying to America there must be a revolution of values, and is forcing America to review its values.” His message was well-received by the students and campus community.

While King never got to realize the effect of his efforts, he continues to be honored here at K-State for his powerful vision. Each January, a Martin Luther King, Jr. Observance Week is held, and in 2018, we celebrate 50 years since his visit to campus. Additionally, he is honored by a monument outside Ahearn Field House, a mural sponsored by Black Student Union, MEChA (a Chicano student group), and the Native American Indian Student Body located on the 4th Floor of Hale Library, and the honorary naming of 17th Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Drive.

Ultimately, his visit was a privilege, and a large moment in K-State history that is still remembered today.

Adapted from: “K-State Keepsakes: Martin Luther King, Jr. Visits K-State” by Anthony Crawford