Fighting for the freedoms and rights of oppressed African Americans, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day still raises inspiration and importance for many students. On Jan. 15, several student volunteers to start a week of programs that will be dedicated to this American hero. The campus has been working to continue his legacy through service to inspire positive change through the Detroit area, continuing this tradition for its 25th year to support local community services. One could argue that the reason it became a large deal for the University of Michigan-Dearborn was because of the visit that Martin Luther King Jr. made to the Ann Arbor campus back in 1962.
The visit that was nearly forgotten until 2012, when a librarian from the Bentley Historical Library at UM-Ann Arbor found photos from the visit, revealed the talk he gave 10 months before his historical “I Have a Dream” speech championing civil rights. The negatives from that day were stored in a box that were discovered once before but forgotten until recently. Despite his reputation as a controversial figure at the time, his message for equality and the impact he made before his death rang strong for the students at the time.
The crowd at the time, evidenced from the photographs, was very small due to the lack of publicity at the time as well as a lack of interest. Supposedly the talk was last minute so the lack of attention was understandable. However, three years later in 1965, King would take the time to visit Michigan State University’s campus in East Lansing, reporting 4000 students in attendance at that lecture from archives.
Despite the lack of documentation at the time for the visit, one can’t argue the impact that King had made at the time after his assassination. The late 1960s saw the Board of Regents passing a resolution to memorialize King as well as setting up the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Fund to honor the work he had done in his life. Students were in shock hearing of his death and had used force to close a building. While the actions of the students weren’t condoned at the time, it was understandable why they had done it because of the movement.
King’s actions were of promoting fighting for equality through nonviolent means. He was a minister that wanted to see social change happen, but not at the risk of becoming violent with his dream. The means he had encouraged for his fellow African Americans to follow were peaceful protests of segregation such as the boycotts of city buses that gave preferential treatment to whites, sit-ins at lunch counters that would refuse to serve African Americans, and massive rallies to draw attention to the civil rights causes. The actions to fight for equality and justice without resorting to violence has made a strong impact on people to this day.
Throughout the week, there will be various events that students and staff can participate in to celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Monday, Jan. 15th, had the start of the MLK day of service very early as well as a talk about the modern perspective of what King’s values mean today at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History at 1 p.m. Tuesday will have screenings for Selma and Brother Outsider in Kochoff Hall C and The Include at the University Center at 3 p.m. respectively. Wednesday continues the film screenings in The Include in the University Center at noon with the film And Still I Rise while a talk by Patrick Philips will occur in Kochoff Hall at 3 p.m. To end the week on Thursday, the Fourth Annual Engagement Day will be happening from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Kochoff Hall at the University Center, sponsored by the Office of Metropolitan Engagement while simultaneously having a screening of the film Barry at 3 p.m. in the Include.
With today and the rest of this week being a remembrance of a man and his hard work to fight for civil rights and equality, one can only hope that the efforts being put out will make a real impact. Society has come very far in fighting and standing up for equality in race relations but there are still many steps needed for true equality. When the world becomes a place where there is no discrimination because of a person’s skin color and where they came from, we’ll know we’ve accomplished King’s dream he spoke of so long ago.