Martin Luther King Honorary Degree Ceremony
On the 13th of November, 1967, Newcastle University gave Dr Martin Luther King an honorary degree – the only UK university to do so during his lifetime. The day the inspirational campaigner was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law remains one of the most important moments in the University’s history and was celebrated by the University and partners in 2017 via a programme called FREEDOM CITY 2019
The occasion was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Dr King took time to visit the University to receive the award: he was only in the UK for 24 hours during a frenetic schedule of commitments, campaigning – among other things – for Carl Stokes in his successful bid to become the first black mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.
At the ceremony, which was held in King’s Hall, Dr King received his degree from His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, who was at that time the University’s Chancellor.
Unusually, Dr King was then invited to give an acceptance speech – and he held the audience spellbound as he spoke of his struggle for racial justice. Read Dr King’s speech
Tragically, barely five months later, the University found itself organising a memorial service following Dr King’s assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April 1968.
On the exact 50th anniversary of the visit, a two metre tall bronze statue was especially commissioned to mark the occasion, and was unveiled by Ambassador Andrew Young, a close friend and colleague of Dr King’s and who accompanied him to Newcastle in 1967.