From the NCCU Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at North Carolina College at Durham

From the NCCU Archives: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s speech at North Carolina College at Durham

January 21, 2015

BY: ANDRE D. VANN, N.C. CENTRAL UNIVERSITY

“The old order of segregation is passing away. The new order of freedom and human dignity is coming into being….”

Words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., November 13, 1964 on the campus on then North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University)

The life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is but the biography of the Civil Rights Movement as he is remembered as a change agent who helped through his activism influence the adoption of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. His actions and the actions of countless activists who sought to challenge segregation helped to change the civil rights landscape of this city, state and nation.

Many know of his earlier visits to Durham, but very little is known of his visit to North Carolina College in November of 1964 -just a month after being named the 1964 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and one year after having delivered the famous “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963 and named “Time Magazine Man of the Year.”

The visit by King-president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was fresh off an election cycle that saw President Lyndon Baines Johnson on November 3, 1964 overwhelmingly supported by African Americans who stood in opposition to Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s civil rights position. The NAACP had nationally suspended mass demonstrations as of July 29, 1964 in order to focus and concentrate on voter registrations and getting the vote out.

As a result well over 6,000,000 “Negroes” were registered and qualified to vote, and went to the polls in great numbers in the North and South in anticipation of Johnson’s hopeful enforcement of 1964 Civil Rights Act as vigorously as he has worked for its enactment.

In October of 1964, at the youthful age of thirty-five, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the youngest man to receive the Nobel Peace Prize and only the 12th American as Dr. Ralph J. Bunche became the first in 1950. When notified of his selection, he announced that he would turn over the prize money of $54,000. to the cause of the civil rights movement.

In an interview in the New York Times, he remarked “I am glad people of other nations are concerned with our problems here.” He saw the prize as a global sign that “public opinion was on the side of those struggling for freedom and dignity.”

Dr. King was no stranger to the Durham community as he had visited as early as 1956 and spoke in such venues as Hillside High School, White Rock Baptist Church, St. Mark A.M.E. Zion Church, the Jack Tar Hotel, Duke University, visited the Woolworth’s lunch counter protestors in downtown Durham and was a frequent quest in the home of the Michaux family as he was a close friend of Rep. H. M. “Mickey” Michaux, Attorney Floyd B. McKissick, John H. Wheeler  and Rev. Douglas Moore,  a classmate from King’s Boston University days.

On November 13, 1964 at 8:00 pm Dr. King addressed an overflow crowd of some 5000 people of all races in North Carolina College’s McDougald Gymnasium and was nearly mobbed by well-wishers and autograph seekers in his speech at the college. The 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner spoke on the subject, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution” and would go on the deliver an address by the same title on March 31, 1968 at the National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Dr. Samuel P. Massie, who served as the third president of North Carolina College from 1963-1966-welcomed the public to the campus and his visit, was eagerly awaited by NCC students and faculty members who had been on the frontline of the civil rights movement in Durham and that had witnessed significant movement in the struggle for civil rights.

In his address as reported in the November 30, 1964 edition of the college’s Campus Echo student newspaper he suggested four things for those who would “remain awake through a great revolution.” To view the entire speech in its entirety go to

http://web.nccu.edu/shepardlibrary/about/dept_archives.html

He noted “It means realizing that we do have a dilemma because we do have the legacy of slavery and segregation. It means that we are exactly 344 years behind, and he who gets behind in a race must forever remain behind or run faster than the man in front. This is at one and the same time our dilemma and our challenge.”

He noted “We must realize that violence and hatred are dangerous and tragic forces to be alive in any society,” he warned, “Violence… is both impractical and immoral in the struggle for racial justice.”

He remarked “There is another way-the way of love. I’m not talking about an affectionate, sentimental quality. It would be non-sense to tell oppressed people to love their violent oppressors in an affectionate sense. I’m talking about something much deeper.”

Concluding, Dr. King said; “If we will remain awake, standing up against evil in our societies, struggling in every creative movement to get rid of the evils that cloud our days, then we will see that brighter day; then we will see that new America… I have faith in that new day. I believe it is coming….”

Louis Austin noted the impact of award given to Dr. King in the Saturday, November 21, 1964 edition of the Carolina Times entitled “Without Honor In His Own State” noted that while Durham was honored by having Dr. King visit, in his home town Dr. King was scorned by many of the leading white citizens of the State of Georgia and some African American leaders were dismissive of this great honor for Dr. King.

“It is, therefore, no accident that it took the Nobel Prize Committee, located many miles from his hometown and state, to recognize the true greatness of Martin Luther King, Jr., the leader and the prophet of his race.”

Dr. King would later receive the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1964 in the auditorium of the University of Oslo, Norway and from 1955 to 1968 traveled well over six million miles and delivered over 2500 speeches that helped to make a change in both civil and human rights in America.

The NCCU Campus Echo Student Newspapers from 1927-1969 (140 issues) and Eagle Yearbooks from 1929-2010 have been digitized and are freely accessible as a part of the “North Carolina Yearbooks Project” a project undertaken by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center, which is based at UNC Chapel Hill. The project began in 2011 and is on- going.

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