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Martin Luther King Jr.'s forgotten visit to the University of Michigan's campus

MLK, Jr. at Hill Auditorium in Ann Arbor.
Bentley Historical Library
Martin Luther King speaking at UM's Hill Auditorium in 1962.

The University of Michigan celebrates the life of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. by holding annual symposiumson campus.

But it seems no one knew of King’s visit to campus in 1962 until an enterprising person at the Bentley Historical Library combed through their collection.

The Michigan Daily picks up the story from here (Haley Goldberg wrote about the discovery in 2012):

David Erdody, a digital curator at the Bentley Historical Library, discovered a series of 20 photo negatives in early January that feature King giving a speech and hosting a discussion at the University… In explaining the discovery of the photo negatives, Erdody said he’s known since his childhood that King often made trips to Detroit, but he always wondered if King ever made an appearance at the University… Erdody said a quick search in the Bentley’s archives revealed about 100 documents and archival material relating to King. While 99 of these results did not relate to a University visit by King, one result — the series of photo negatives — sparked Erdody’s curiosity. After examining and developing the negatives into photographs, Erdody said he discovered the exact evidence he was searching for.

King was on campus as the leader of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and was advocating student civil disobedience – something that the leaders of the University at the time were likely wary of.

Former University of Michigan President James Duderstadt explains that might be why his visit was swept under the rug:

“It’s characteristic of public universities … to either forget their history or bury it or pave over it,” Duderstadt said. “Every once in a while, someone who is interested in history has to come along and dig it back up again.”

More on the discovery of the photos here.

And there’s this video:


Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
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