Editor’s note: Fifty years ago today, the renowned Martin Luther King Jr. came to a crowd of over 7,000 at Ahearn Field House to present “The Future of Integration” — one of the last speeches he would give before his murder a few months later.
Over the years, Kansas State University has played host to several important figures, including Fortune 500 company leaders, foreign presidents and a few American presidents. Few, however, have had as lasting of an impact as King — a Nobel Peace Prize recipient — did when he stirred in students the motivation to effect meaningful change via non-violent protests.
On K-State’s campus, that historic January day is memorialized with a monument outside Ahearn Field House, the honorary naming of 17th Street as Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Drive and a mural in Hale Library.
In his honor, we reprint the Collegian’s coverage of his 1968 speech. The following text is a faithful reprinting of the story as it was published in 1968. All wording, formatting and misspellings have been preserved.
Martin Luther King Argues for Human Rights
by Sandy Dalyrmple and Tom Palmer
Martin Luther King today stressed the “long, long way to go” in the struggle for civil rights.
King attempted to answer the “desperate question, whether there has been any real progress in the Negro revolution.” He gave the history of the struggle and the future solutions to approximately 7,200 persons at the Ahearn Field House.
“I TRY TO present a realistic position,” he said. There have been significant strides for racial justice—but we have a long, long way to go,” King said.
He mentioned the “new Negro”—ready to sacrifice to be free.” There were two turning points in the revolution—legal and psychological. But with all the progress, “we can’t end here.”
“No area of our country can boast a clean hand in the realm of brotherhood,” he said. He spoke of no convictions yet in Mississippi, of the “burn the church of your choice” in the South and the “underemployment of Negroes everywhere.
“THERE IS another kind of murder,” he said. King explained the psychological sense of murder—”They work everyday, long and hard, but they make so little they can’t function in the mainstream of our economic life.”
“The Negro often sees life as a cooridor without exits,” he said. King presented the “facts of Negro history—but to stop here with these developments is to wrap our progress in a package of superficiality.”
King mentioned the civil rights movement bill of of 1964, voting rights of 1965 and the student movements—part of the Negro process.
“When the students sit down, they are standing up, for the best American dream,” he said.
THE INTRINSIC worth of the Negro is something that even the Negro did not realize for many years, he said. “When Negroes first appeared in the United States in 1619, they were a thing to be used—not persons to be respected.”
The legal turning point came in 1954, “when the Supreme Court pronounced the segregation laws constitutionally dead.”
King said, though he believes in non-violent methods of exposing moral defenses is most effective in fighting segregation, he could not condemn violence without recognizing the intolerable conditions that creat it.
“America has failed to hear the plight of the Negro, and he is calling for attention. As long as justice is postponed, we will be on the verge of social disruption,” he said.
At first, King said, some supporters were doing the right thing for the wrong reason, or because of hate rather than for equal rights cause.
“The problem of eradicating slums will be more complex than getting into a lunch counter.”
The administration, he said, is concentrating on winning an unjust, ill-conceived war in Vietnam instead of one on poverty.