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K-State Today

January 18, 2018

Attendees of MLK's K-State address gather to reflect on his message

Submitted by Sarah McGreer Hoyt

MLK 50th logo

On Jan. 19, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a crowd of more than 7,200 in Kansas State University's Ahearn Field House. He was assassinated less than three months later.

At 3:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 19, in Town Hall of the Leadership Studies Building, exactly 50 years after that historic All-University Convocation speech, four individuals who attended King's lecture will share their remembrances. This public event, "I was there: Reflections on MLK's 1968 K-State visit," is a joint presentation of K-State Libraries and the K-State Alumni Association.

"I was there" panelists include:

  • Bill Hill, Manhattanite since childhood and 1972 graduate of Manhattan High School. Hill was just 13 years old when he attended King's speech.
  • Sue Maes '69, '72, '98, dean emeritus of K-State Global Campus who recently retired after more than three decades at K-State. When Maes heard King speak, she was a junior majoring in physical therapy and a member of the student governing association.
  • Sylvia Robinson '71, chair-elect of the K-State Alumni Association board of directors. Robinson was a freshman education major when King visited. During her time on campus, she was also a member of the Black Student Union, K-State cheer team, charter member of the Eta Gamma chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and a founding member of the United Black Voices gospel choir.
  • Bill Worley '68, professor of history at Metropolitan Community College, Blue River campus. Worley was a Blue Key member and K-State student body president in 1967-68.

King's speech has long been available to anyone who would like to read — or even hear — it. William W. Boyer, then-K-State professor and convocation committee chair, published a transcript of King's lecture in a book titled "Issues 1968." More recently, an audio recording of King's address was rediscovered and preserved in university archives. This panel marks the first time, however, that we hear from so many students who were in the audience that day.

Participants will speak to the impact King's message had on them in subsequent years, and they will reflect on the 50 years of progress, pain and triumph that have occurred in the ongoing march toward racial equality.

Livestream available. Access the link at lib.k-state.edu/events.

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