|Boston University's Marsh Chapel|
and the sculpture "Free at Last" dedicated to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Boston in 1951 to attend Boston University graduate school, earning a Ph. D. in theology in 1955. Howard Thurman’s sermon’s at the Marsh Chapel, including his accounts of visiting Gandi taught King about nonviolent protest. Dr. Thurman was the first black dean of a predominantly white American university. Today the BU library houses King’s personal papers.
My Dad was at Boston University at the same time as Dr. King. He matriculated in 1952 and graduated in 1957. Dad took many classes in theology, but he was a Government major. I don’t know if he ever crossed paths with Dr. King, or if he would have even known him in those years before he was famous. But Dad always liked to mention the fact that they went to the same school at the same time.
Dr. King loved Boston after choosing to study here because of the diversity in the community. It was in Boston that he met his wife, Coretta Scott, who was a student at the New England Conservatory. He returned to Boston in 1965 to address a joint session of the Massachusetts legislature, and on the following day he led a freedom march from the South End to the Boston Common where he spoke to 22,000 people in the rain.
Although we tend to think of Dr. King fighting for justice in the South, he returned to Boston and the North many times to address injustices all over the United States. On 11 September 1964, while donating his papers to BU, he said:
“This struggle, while we are based in the South, is a national struggle and it requires concern of people all over the nation… Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. The problem is very serious in the North. Racial injustice does exist in the North in a very serious way.”
The night of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968, there was violent unrest in the city. But the following night, although many US cities had continuing violence and riots, the rock star James Brown kept the peace in Boston. He had been scheduled to appear in the Boston Garden, but agreed with Mayor Kevin White to have his concert broadcast live on WGBH TV. It was hoped that this would keep Bostonians in front of their TVs at home instead of protesting on the streets- and it worked.
Today, there are lasting signs of Dr. King’s legacy in Boston - Martin Luther King Boulevard in Roxbury, The MLK Towers housing project, the annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Breakfast, scholarships, schools, sculptures and community programs all bear his name and continue his memory.
Click at this link to read a fragment of Martin Luther King’s essay on his application to the Boston University Graduate School
The Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Archive at the Boston University Gotlieb Archival Research Center http://www.bu.edu/dbin/mlkjr/
The 44th Annual Boston MLK Memorial Breakfast http://www.mlkbreakfastboston.org/2014/
Boston’s MLK Day of Service and Learning “Make it a day on, not a day off!”
“The Night James Brown Saved Boston” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B1MXrl_9AlY and also http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DsHZakDPDvo, etc.
James Brown Live at Boston Garden 1968 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ-8P-mMyFg (at about 1:29:30 you can see where James Brown and the police clash, and he calms the crowd)
Video of citizens gathering at a peaceful rally in Boston following Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1968 assassination http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/bln12.soc.civil.mlkresponse/reaction-to-the-assassination-of-martin-luther-king-jr-1968/
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Copyright ©2014, Heather Wilkinson Rojo