Martin Luther King Jr. and 'the future of integration'

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- In 1964, at the age of 35, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racial inequality.

A few weeks later, on Jan. 21, 1965 — 50 years ago — King visited Penn State's University Park campus and addressed a crowd of more than 8,000 people at Recreation Hall on the future of integration.

He spoke to those assembled about the civil rights movement, the United States' legacy of slavery and segregation, and the principles he believed would change the world: "We have come a long, long way in the struggle for racial justice, but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved."

King's intent was to rally public support for ending all forms of segregation, urging that "the challenge ahead is to work passionately and unrelentingly to remove racial injustice from every area of our nation's life." He emphasized that all Americans must remain alert to segregation's existence, for "if democracy is to live, segregation must die."

A Penn State Historical Marker stands near Rec Hall to commemorate this significant moment in history. Even then, the impact of King's work was evident to those who gathered to listen to his message.

On Monday, Jan. 19, listeners will have the opportunity to hear the entirety of King's historic Rec Hall address — in his own voice — when the University Libraries presents an audio broadcast of the speech at 11 a.m. in Foster Auditorium, 102 Paterno Library.

The event, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is open to all, and students and the public are encouraged to attend. A related slide show will be presented along with the audio. The broadcast is just one of several events at the Libraries to celebrate King's legacy.

Susan Russell, the 2014-15 Penn State Laureate and associate professor of theatre, recently reflected on King's words.

The University this year also is celebrating the 30th anniversary of Penn State's annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration. This year's theme is “Now, More than Ever.”

The occasion will be highlighted by an Evening Celebration on Jan. 22, featuring keynote speaker and author Michael Eric Dyson, professor of sociology at Georgetown University.

For the full schedule of commemorative events, visit http://mlk.psu.edu/schedule-of-events/. You can also follow the commemoration on Twitter and Facebook.

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Last Updated July 28, 2015