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Dartmouth College honors Martin Luther King Jr. with events

  • Dartmouth junior Kellan Love passes out candles after he and two other co-organizers spoke in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the Shabazz Center for Intellectual Inquiry prior to a candlight march across the green to Hopkins Center in Hanover, N.H. on Monday Jan. 20, 2020. The event was held in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. (Rick Russell photograph)Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Students from Dartmouth College cross East Wheelock Street in Hanover heading to Hopkins Center as part of a candlelight march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Rick Russell photograph)Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Students from Dartmouth College cross East Wheelock heading to Hopkins Center as part of a candlelight march in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020. (Rick Russell photograph)Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/20/2020 10:37:01 PM
Modified: 1/21/2020 8:10:09 AM

HANOVER — Dartmouth College on Monday kicked off a month-long celebration of the life and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. with a breakfast at the Hanover Inn for roughly 200 college employees.

Keynote speaker Matthew Delmont, who specializes in African-American history, reminded attendees that New Hampshire was the last state to adopt Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a paid state holiday.

“In some ways, I’m glad New Hampshire was one of the last states to adopt the day because it insures we never take (the holiday) for granted,” Delmont said.

Delmont sought to revise common misperceptions about the slain civil rights leader’s life during his speech.

“When we honor King, there’s a temptation to focus on the most comfortable parts of his life,” said Delmont, noting that a majority of Americans disapproved of King at the time of his death. A 1966 Gallup poll found that nearly two-thirds of Americans at the time viewed him negatively.

King’s advocacy against the Vietnam War, as well as his anti-poverty and anti-police brutality efforts, were received by many Americans at the time as “too much, too soon,” according to Delmont.

Although he focused on King’s work, Delmont also shined a spotlight on Coretta Scott King, who worked for two decades after her husband’s assassination in 1968 to secure a federal holiday in his honor.

“She was much more than the ‘First Lady’ of the Civil Rights Movement,” Delmont said.

Delmont told attendees about “how much courage it took for Coretta Scott King to return to Memphis after (King’s) assassination” and that “she was the only woman to speak at an anti-war event, two years before Rev. King came out against the Vietnam War.”

Theodosia Cook, a Dartmouth official who is leading a college initiative to combat sexual harassment, said she was inspired by the program.

“I think it was awesome that Matt (Delmont) highlighted Coretta’s work as well as the women from the bus boycotts,” said Cook, one of about a dozen people of color to attend the event. “I would love to have a discussion with white people around ‘how does it feel’ to live here being a white person because then we can go beyond ‘how does it feel’ to ‘what are we going to do about how it feels.’ ”

The brothers of the African American fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha held a candlelight vigil Monday evening at the Shabazz Center for Intellectual Inquiry, which is home to the Afro-American Society of Dartmouth. It began with a few remarks from brothers of the fraternity and concluded with a march through the campus filled with singing.

Senior Zachary Hawkins opened the event.

“In a time of increasing divisiveness and threat against people of color it’s very important to remember that we have each other,” he said to the crowd of about 70.

He also reminded the audience that King had been a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha at Boston University and many of its members offered financial support to his cause.

Afterward, juniors Dakari Falconer and Kellen Love took turns reading an excerpt from a speech King had delivered at Dartmouth Hall in 1962.

During the walk and illuminated by candlelight, freshman Chara Lyons said King’s message is as urgent as ever.

“Peace has always been and will always be a message that needs to be reiterated. As times change, struggles change, but that doesn’t mean that we as a community weaken. We strengthen,” Lyons said.

On Sunday at 3 p.m., Harvard professor and former president of the NAACP Cornell Brooks will speak at Dartmouth College’s Rollins Chapel on King’s legacy. He will be joined by the Dartmouth Gospel Choir.

Rohan Chakravarty can be reached at rchakravarty@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.




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