On Thursday, February 11, 1965, more than 4,000 students and community residents attended a campus visit and lecture by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The large crowd packed themselves into the Auditorium and an overflow spilled into the nearby Fairchild Theater where they could hear the civil rights leader’s speech. King came to MSU to kick off a fundraising drive for the university student government-sponsored Student Education Program (STEP). STEP was the first all-student-administered educational outreach program of its kind in the country. It involved sending student and faculty volunteers to assist Rust College of Holly Springs, Mississippi during the summer of 1965. It evolved out of MSU students’ desire to help others and gain educational experience. The program focused on eight areas that emphasized improving education, which can be found on the MSU Archives page located here.
In his speech, King issued three challenges to the audience:
- People must achieve a world brotherhood perspective.
- The notion of superior and inferior races must be abolished.
- Massive action programs must be developed to rid the world of segregation.
King also called for new Civil Rights legislation pertaining to voting rights in his speech and made reference to the recommendations of the Civil Rights Commission and MSU President John A. Hannah, who was appointed chairperson of the Civil Rights Commission in January, 1957, by President Dwight Eisenhower. The work done by the commission on voting rights became the Title I section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In honor of Black History Month, we honor and celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the many others that have made such a deep historical impact on American culture and our university.