A Day in History @ MSU – Martin Luther King Jr. Visits MSU

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.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Michigan State University
Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Michigan State University on February 11, 1965. Photo courtesy of MSU Archives.

In his speech, King issued three challenges to the audience:

  1. People must achieve a world brotherhood perspective.
  2. The notion of superior and inferior races must be abolished.
  3. 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.

Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. King participates in a civil rights march.
Dr. King participates in a civil rights march.

MSU has celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. since 1980, six years before Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a national holiday. This year, Martin Luther King Jr. Day falls on Monday, January 19. MSU students, faculty and staff will join together in recognition of Dr. King’s life’s work; bringing publicity to major civil rights activities, emphasizing and encouraging peaceful protests, and providing leadership.

The tribute begins this Saturday, January 17 with a gala celebrating the commencement of Project 60/50, a year-long initiative focused on engaging the community in conversations about diversity. After the gala, a Union Activities Board event will be held to illustrate the student body’s talent and commitment to civil rights issues. On Sunday, January 18, free jazz concerts will be available as 60/50’s gift to the community. On Monday, a student leadership conference will run through the morning to be followed by a luncheon taking place in partnership with the Greater Lansing King Commemorative Celebration Commission. Other festivities include a commemorative march from the Union to Beaumont Tower and an exhibit at the MSU Museum.

As we look forward to paying homage to the heroic deeds of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., MSU HR salutes all those who have worked for equality; past, present and future.