During his presidency of the college, John Sloan Dickey founded the Great Issues Course - a year-long requirement for all seniors where students investigated critical national and international issues. The course was supplemented by weekly talks from leading figures of the time. It was through this course that the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a public lecture to the Dartmouth community entitled “Towards Freedom.” In his oral history, Richard Joseph '65 describes his experience of a spectator to the speech:
“In fact, I remember the event very well. Because I remember King standing there, and I remember him scanning the audience. And I was there, and I knew exactly what he was looking for. He was looking to see, in the sea of white faces, you know. And I remember, you know, as his eyes were scanning, there was a moment when he looked up, and I was there, and our eyes connected, you know? I don’t know who else was in the audience, but I certainly remember that moment of him looking up and finally seeing someone of color, yes. And then I... I don’t remember the specifics of his speech. But I remember being moved by it and so on.”
Richard A. Joseph '65, oral history interview
Although King gave his speech on May 23, 1962, efforts had been made to bring him to campus since early 1960. Due to legal complications and an unexpected riot in the South, King had to delay previously scheduled trips in April 1960 and May 1961 respectively. When he finally was able to give his speech, he did not disappoint, delivering a passionate speech inspiring the Dartmouth community and leaving a lasting impact.
From the Archives
This flyer announces a public lecture to be delivered by Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 105 Dartmouth Hall. King’s lecture, which was part of Dartmouth President John Sloan Dickey’s Great Issues Course lecture series, focused on the “question of progress in race relations” in the United States, and called upon community members in the North to take part in the Civil Rights Movement.
A multimedia presentation of the speech the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered at Dartmouth on May 23, 1962.
This article summarizes the main points articulated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Towards Freedom.” Dr. King stressed the disparities in employment and voting rights that still need(ed) to be surmounted by Black Americans despite recent successes for racial equality. He underscored the importance of dismantling the myth that only time and education can bring about positive change in racial relations, and urged President Kennedy to issue an executive order declaring segregation unconstitutional.
Prof. Gene Lyons wrote this letter to Martin Luther King, Jr. eight days after he visited Dartmouth to deliver an address. Lyons apologizes for his delay in sending a letter amid the busy final grading period, and wholeheartedly thanks Dr. King for his visit and empowering words. Lyons concludes by expressing his hope that Dr. King will return and stay for a longer period of time at Dartmouth.
In this letter to Dartmouth Prof. Gene Lyons, Martin Luther King, Jr. expresses his appreciation for the warm welcome he received at Dartmouth and the hope that his lecture shed “light on the difficult problem of racial injustice.” Dr. King concludes by expressing his hopes that he will cross paths with Dr. Lyons in the future.
The oral history interview of Richard A. Joseph runs for approximately five and a half hours and covers his undergraduate years during the 1960s and teaching years during the 1980s as a Professor of Government at Dartmouth.