Remembering when Martin Luther King Jr. visited Portland State

Over 60 years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at Portland State’s Lincoln Hall (then Old Main), delivering a speech called “The Future of Integration” to an overflowing crowd.

The visit, on Nov. 8, 1961, was reported in the Portland State Vanguard, where Dr. King was quoted as saying: “We have come a long way toward making integration a reality, but we still have a long way to go. … If democracy is to live, segregation must die. Segregation is a cancer in the body of democracy that must be removed if the health of the nation is to survive.”

Courtesy of PSU Library’s Digital Archives

The story continued, “At 11 a.m. classes were dismissed so students could attend the convocation, and the auditorium was filled to overflowing. King received an enthusiastic reception from the students, who gave him a standing ovation at the conclusion of his speech.”

King’s trip to Portland was sponsored by the Urban League, and he spoke at Portland State as part of the College’s commemoration of the centennial of the Civil War.

Portland State’s Library Archives saved the story as well as a photo from the Viking yearbook. You can find many of Dr. King’s writings on the library’s virtual shelves.

Portland State MLK Day events for 2022

Portland State is hosting  “Living the Legacy” series of virtual campus and community events to honor the legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Portland State University Library seeks to align its mission and values with those of the University while also articulating a unique vision for the Library’s future. Our mission is to advance the intellectual vitality, knowledge, and creativity of the Portland State University community. We are committed to the University motto, Let Knowledge Serve the City. Read more about the library’s services, databases and research support.

2 thoughts on “Remembering when Martin Luther King Jr. visited Portland State

  1. I was there that day, but the only thing I remember about it was that the auditorium was crowded. On the other hand, it was always crowded because it was too small for the student body.

  2. I was 19 at the time I attended Dr. King’s speech at Portland State College (it later became ‘University]). Not having a class that morning, my arrival was early enough that I was able to have selected a good seat upstairs. Having a view of him was important because my political and social curiosities were just awakening, I didn’t know much about him and wanted to see why he was becoming so influential. The primary takeaway for me was his description of how a one-legged person was at such a disadvantage in a footrace when all other competitors ran on two legs, and how America’s resistance to equality was similar to the one-legged runner. I assumed, while listening, that he was referring to racial discrimination when he was, in fact, referring to gender discrimination, where one leg was men and the other, unused leg, women. He went on to clarify that as far as America had progressed since the writing of the Constitution and the civil war, we could have been so much farther ahead if women had been treated equally. Imagine the additional progress since1982 were both gender AND racial equality both been fully accepted and implemented by a large majority of Americans. Today, MLK Day 2022, would be a good day to get started.

    Dennis Weeks

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