Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Speaks at Dartmouth

On May 23, 1962, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to an overflow crowd in 105 Dartmouth Hall.

The following is from a 2010 Rauner Special Collections Library blog post, "Martin Luther King at Dartmouth".

King's speech, "Towards Freedom," was part of Dartmouth's famed Great Issues course.

But it wasn't so simple to get King to campus. He had agreed to speak at a Union service on May 15, 1960, followed the next day by a question/answer period with the Great Issues class. On April 5th, he wrote to cancel his visit because of a pending income tax case in Alabama. He rescheduled for May 21, 1961. This time he made it to campus but was forced to leave town the morning of the talk upon hearing reports of racial unrest in Alabama. On May 23, 1962, he was finally able to deliver his address. According to accounts in The Dartmouth, he warned idealistic students to be wary of the "myth of educational determinism." Education alone could not solve the problem, the law was still necessary to regulate behavior. He ended with a call for President Kennedy to issue a second Emancipation Proclamation declaring all segregation unconstitutional on the basis of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Featured pamphlet and correspondence from King are courtesy of the Dartmouth Library.

Further Reading

The January/February 1986 issue of the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine details King's visit and includes anecdotes from students who interacted with King through their participation in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and the Civil Rights Movement.

In a November 1965 Dartmouth Alumni Magazine article titled "There is No Lack of Concerned Students", Rev. George H. Kalbfleisch, Director of Undergraduate Religious Life, details the involvement of Dartmouth students in 1964's Freedom Summer and the Civil Rights Movement at large.

Dartmouth Library's 2014 exhibit, "Free Men All: Dartmouth & The Civil Rights Movement",  examined on-campus activity during the Civil Rights Movement.

As part of the College's 2003 celebration of Dr. King, Michael Murray and Sarah Horton of Dartmouth’s Academic Computing created a presentation designed to revisit King’s Dartmouth visit and the turbulent times of the era. Included below, their video presentation combines the original audio of the “Towards Freedom” speech with video and still images chronicling King’s life. King can be heard beginning his speech 36 seconds into the video. 

View a transcript of King's speech

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