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Celebrating Martin Luther King

Numerous events scheduled Jan. 12 through Feb. 1

Published January 12, 2004; Category: EVENTS

In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 19, Dartmouth will hold its annual series of programs in honor of the life and work of the civil rights leader.

This year the celebration will span 21 days, starting a week before MLK Day, and will celebrate Brown v. Board of Education, a Supreme Court decision that ended segregation in public schools 50 years ago.

Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) is a significant figure of the civil rights movement in the 1960s. His achievements include the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott in 1955-1956, the Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., in 1963, and his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.

Although he retained a policy of nonviolence throughout his campaigns, he did not avoid a brutal death: he was assassinated in Memphis, Tenn., in 1968. In 1983, Congress designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day to be observed on the third Monday in January, a day that falls on or is near King's birthday of Jan. 15.

This year's theme is "Rewriting History/Reclaiming Space: 50 Years after Brown v. Board of Education." This court case in 1954 led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision that it was unconstitutional to segregate public schools based on race.

This case parallels a case last June involving the University of Michigan, in which the Supreme Court encouraged the narrow use of affirmative action in the school's admissions decisions -both for its law school and undergraduate college.

Dartmouth President James Wright notes in a letter inviting the community to celebrate MLK Day that this recent event makes the Brown v. Board of Education theme timely, for "it will allow us to ask fundamental questions about the results of desegregation and to probe our own understandings of 'integration.'"

This year's keynote speaker, Shanta Driver, was involved in the Michigan cases. As the National Coordinator of the organization United for Equality and Affirmative Action Legal Defense Fund, she directed the student legal intervention into the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action case. She is also the National Director of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action and Integration and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary (BAMN), which has rallied in defense of affirmative action through various campaigns, most notably the 50,000-person March on Washington last April.

Driver is a recipient of the 2002 Rosa Parks Award from the American Association for Affirmative Action.

Other events during the MLK commemoration include a multimedia presentation of the speech King delivered at Dartmouth in 1962, a presentation of social justice awards, a candlelight vigil, films, concerts, panel discussions and lectures.

By SHIORI OKAZAKI '04

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Last Updated: 12/17/08