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King’s legacy runs deep at area colleges

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (center) received an honorary degree from Central State University in 1958. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVES
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (center) received an honorary degree from Central State University in 1958. DAYTON DAILY NEWS ARCHIVES

He spoke at four area colleges and his wife, Coretta, went to Antioch College in Yellow Springs.

The Miami Valley held a special spot in Martin Luther King Jr.’s heart — in part “for having given me a marvelous wife” he told a crowd at Antioch College in 1965.

King’s connections to the Dayton region and its colleges run deep and this week bells will ring loudly on area campuses for him on the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

At 7:01 p.m. Wednesday — the precise time of the assassination — bells will ring at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and they will be followed at 7:05 p.m. by bells at the University of Dayton, Wright State University, Wittenberg University, Omega Baptist Church, Carillon Historical Park and likely several others. Each institution will sound their bells 39 times to represent King’s age at the time of his death.

RELATED: Did you know MLK visited 4 area colleges? Here’s what he told students

Along with the bells, a number of colleges will host events to commemorate King and his legacy.

“It seemed like a good time to look back on this historical moment and its relation to the issues and concerns and campaigns that were essential to King’s work,” said Roger Crum, a UD art history professor and member of the school’s planning committee that helped organize the April events for King. “These kind of (events) just developed.”

King addressed crowds of graduates and community members at four area colleges during the height of the civil rights movement, including UD, Central State University, Wilberforce University and Antioch. His wife, Coretta Scott King, attended Antioch College from 1945 to 1949 and later received her degree in 1967.

Nearly 53 years ago, King gave the commencement address to graduates of Antioch. In his speech, King joked that he was “indebted to Antioch” for his wife.

RELATED: Here’s how Dayton will commemorate 50th anniversary of MLK’s death

“All men of good will are indebted to this institution for its heritage,” King said that day.

Ohio’s two historically black colleges also welcomed King for commencement speeches.

In June 1965, King called on graduates of Wilberforce — the nation's oldest private historically black college — to fight "racial injustices, poverty and war," according to a Dayton Daily News article at the time. A seal honoring King has since been placed on Wilberforce's campus.

“Racial injustice is still the Negroes’ burden and America’s shame,” King told graduates at Wilberforce’s 107th commencement celebration.

King also spoke to a group of graduates at Central State in 1958. While there, he was also awarded an honorary degree by the university.

King told Central State’s graduates that it was “a great time to be alive” because the world was changing and the prejudices of the past were just beginning to fade.

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“You are graduating at the time of the dying of an old world and the birth of a new one,” King told the CSU graduates.

Many of King’s dreams have come to fruition, experts say, as racial tensions have eased since the civil rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s. But King wouldn’t have been satisfied, they point out, as income inequality, accusations of police brutality and other issues persist in America today.

“In terms of why it’s important to honor his legacy, on the one hand I believe the black experience in America over the past 50 years has many successes as well as many unfulfilled promises,” said Edward Twyman, director of Wright State’s Bolinga Black Cultural Center. “Despite the progress made, we cannot rest on our accomplishments.”

If King were alive today, he would probably say Amen to that.

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COMPLETE COVERAGE OF THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF MLK’S DEATH

Radio: Tune in to AM1290 and News 95.7 WHIO for a special report starting at 7 p.m. Wednesday night, including a moment of silence.

TV: Watch Newscenter 7 starting at 5 p.m. Wednesday for special reports honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.

Online: Visit our website for stories on the anniversary. See photos of King's visits to the region.

In Wednesday's paper: We talk to people about what MLK's legacy means to the area and what it will mean for the future.

MLK 50 Events

The following area events are scheduled to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s assasination.

Tuesday

• 7 p.m., UD’s student union, a viewing of King’s last speech before his assasination

Wednesday

• 12 p.m., Brief rememberance at MLK memorial at UD

• 12:30 p.m., Procession from MLK memorial to Mass at UD

• 7:01 p.m., National Civil Rights Museum bell toll for King

• 7:05 p.m., Ohio bells ring for King. A number of area colleges and organizations are planning to ring their bells 39 times in honor of King on the 50th anniversary of his assasination on Wednesday evening.

• University of Dayton

• Wright State

• Wittenberg University

• Carillon Park

• Omega Baptist Church

Thursday, April 12

• 7 p.m., union ballroom, Terri Freeman, a UD alumnus who serves as president of the National Civil Rights Museum, will give a speech.