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January 18, 2010

Civil rights leader to give MLK address

The Reverend Joseph Lowery, a prominent figure in civil rights activism, will share his message of equality with the University community as he delivers the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address on Friday, January 22. The free address begins at 6 p.m. in Strong Auditorium on the River Campus.

Rev. Joseph Lowery
The Reverend Joseph Lowery
gives the benediction at President
Obama’s inauguration last January.

From working with Martin Luther King Jr. to organize the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to delivering the benediction at President Barack Obama’s inauguration, Lowery has been dedicated to social justice for more than half a century.

His involvement in the movement began in the mid-1950s, and he was at the forefront of the Montgomery bus boycott, a pivotal event in civil rights history. As leader of the Alabama Civic Affairs Association, he focused heavily on the desegregation of buses and public places and workforce equality. Over the course of three decades, Lowery also served in several leadership roles with the SCLC, including president and CEO.

Lowery served as a minister in the United Methodist Church until his retirement. He has been honored with the NAACP’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Martin Luther King Center Peace Award, and has received honorary degrees from numerous colleges and universities across the nation. In August 2009, Obama presented Lowery with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom.

“We are honored to have the Reverend Joseph Lowery as our Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address speaker,” says Norman Burnett, chair of the College Diversity Roundtable and director of the Office of Minority Student Affairs. “Lowery’s important work with Dr. King and his legacy of social justice and racial tolerance serve as a true inspiration to the Rochester community.”

The culmination of a weeklong celebration of King’s life, the annual address is sponsored by the College Diversity Roundtable and the Office of the President. The week includes a volunteer service activity in the 19th Ward and an interfaith service in honor of King at the Interfaith Chapel at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, January 21. For a list of events in King’s honor as well as events for Black History Month, visit

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