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More than a decade of distinguished MLK speakers

January 13, 2017

Author Joy DeGruy, who will deliver this year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Address, is the latest in a long line of exceptional luminaries in the civil rights field to speak at the University. A fuller list of past speakers is found on the Office of Minority Student Affairs website.

Marc Morial [2016]

President of the National Urban League since 2003 and former mayor of New Orleans, Morial has been recognized as one of the 100 most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine.


Khalil Gibran Muhammad with quote: "The hard work of social change is in the everyday waking up willing to move the needle just a little bit further."

Khalil Gibran Muhammad [2015]

Now serving as professor of history, race, and public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Muhammad was executive director of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture when he delivered his address. He also provides media commentary on race and related issues.


Benjamin Jealous with quote: " I don't believe in fighting the good fight, I believe in winning the good fight"

Benjamin Jealous [2014]

Benjamin Jealous was the youngest president in the history of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Having begun his civil rights career at age 18, Jealous is a senior partner at Kapor Capital, a firm that aims to leverage the tech sector to create progressive social change.

Melissa Harris-Perry with quote: ""The legacy of King is a reminder that when we live in a democracy, we have a right to govern and not just to be governed."

Melissa Harris-Perry [2013]

Harris-Perry is a political analyst, scholar, and professor of political science at Tulane University. At the time of her speech, she also hosted her own current affairs program on MSNBC.


Michael Eric Dyson with quote: "Dr. King would have been deeply troubled by the persistence inequality, and pushed for the relief of the most vulnerable in our society."

Michael Eric Dyson [2012]

A professor of sociology at Georgetown University and former radio host, Dyson is an author, commentator, and political analyst for MSNBC. Dyson has been named one of the most influential black Americans by Ebony magazine.


Alvin Poussaint with quote: "Until the black consciousness movement, 'black' was a derogatory word"

Alvin Poussaint  [2011]

A Harvard University psychiatrist and noted author, Poussaint has focused his work on the mental health of African Americans. He served as a script consultant to both The Cosby Show and A Different World, working to ensure the sitcoms portrayed a positive image of African Americans and avoided stereotypes. No video available.


Joseph Lowery with quote: "We must not stop with honoring the man, we must honor the mission as well."

Joseph Lowery [2010]

Lowery started working the front lines of the civil rights movement during the mid 1950s alongside King and Rosa Parks. He has served in leadership positions in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference  and has been recognized with multiple awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.


Nikki Giovanni with quote: "Without thePullman Porters, the civil rights movement would not have been financed."

Nikki Giovanni [2009]

A writer, activist, educator, and poet—referred to as the “Princess of Black Poetry”—Giovanni has written more than 30 books. She currently holds the title of University Distinguished Professor at Virginia Tech University. No video available.


Andrew Young with quote: "The direction Dr. King’s life took was not a fun path; it wasnot a glorious path. Itwas a necessary path."

Andrew Young [2008]

A former Atlanta mayor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young was a top aide to King. Recipient of multiple awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Young is the co-founding principal and chairman of GoodWorks International, a consulting firm that focuses on advancing economic development in Africa and the Caribbean. No video available.


Jesse Jackson quote: "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere"

Jesse Jackson [2007]

Like Lowery and Young, Jackson worked with King during the tumultuous civil rights period of the 20th century. A minister, politician, and activist, he has expanded his work across international lines to foster social justice issues. No video available.

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Category: University News