Celebrating the Life and Legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.

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LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, Pa. – Today marks 50 years since the tragic assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who died in Memphis, Tenn.

King was born on January 15, 1929, and by the time of his death at age 39 had become the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement. He was a renowned orator, with the ability to persuade audiences to unite in a unified force, most often encouraging equality for all.

On June 6, 1961, King spoke at Lincoln University’s Commencement ceremony and received an honorary degree. His speech at Lincoln entitled “The American Dream” would not be the last time he spoke about his dreams for our nation.  Two years later on August 28, 1963, he would deliver his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream,” during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In both speeches, he calls for an end to racism in the United States and speaks on his dream of equal civil and economic rights.

Listen to King's speech at Lincoln University, courtesy of the Lincoln University Archives.

Samuel L. Woodard, a 1952 graduate of Lincoln University and assistant professor at Temple University in 1968, called a Philadelphia newspaper the day of King’s death and said there “ought to be a national holiday to honor King,” according to an article in the Buffalo News by Sean Kirst.

Woodard’s proposal of a King holiday received national attention. According to Kirst’s story, old newspaper accounts said that “Woodard offered the proposal along with other members of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity created for African-American men, a fraternity to which King had also belonged.”

The full text of the "The American Dream" has been digitized by The Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project, which was initiated by The King Center.

Excerpt from the Introduction of Martin Luther King Jr.'s Speech at Given Lincoln University:
“The fact that Lincoln University has had such a great impact on the life and development of that great continent and the newly emerging countries of Africa is something for which we will be eternally indebted to this University. And so it is a real pleasure and a great privilege to me to be here today, and I want to express my appreciation to the trustees and the faculty for honoring me in such a significant and meaningful way today by awarding the honorary Doctorate of Law. I can assure you that this honor you have bestowed upon me will give me renewed courage and vigor to carry on in the days ahead.”