"Our Destinies Are Tied Together”: Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. Speech Delivered on Campus


Martin Luther King Jr. speaking at Saint Joseph's on Oct. 26, 1967.

PHILADELPHIA (Oct. 3, 2017) — On Thursday, Oct. 26, 1967, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a crowd of approximately 1,700 students, faculty and community members on Saint Joseph's campus in Alumni Memorial Field House (now Hagan Arena). Invited by student government leaders, King spoke for approximately 50 minutes and addressed the pressing issues of the day, including racial and economic injustice, the Vietnam War, the future of integration, the importance of enforcing civil rights legislation, and non-violent resistance.  

Near the end of "The Future of Integration," King called for unity. “I do want to mention finally that if we are to move on in the days ahead and bring into being a truly integrated society, we must recognize that our destinies are tied together,” he said. “The black man must recognize that his destiny is tied up with the destiny of the white man, and the white man must recognize that his destiny is tied up with the destiny of the black man.”

Less than six months later, on April 4,1968, King would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had gone to address striking sanitation workers. He was 39 years old.

Now, 50 years after King delivered the speech at Saint Joseph's, on Thursday, Oct. 26, the University will commemorate the anniversary with a daylong series of events. Titled “Our Destinies Are Tied Together,” the celebration includes a teach-in featuring Saint Joseph’s faculty; a community reading of the speech by Pa. State Rep. Morgan B. Cephas, University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., and others; a panel of expert faculty members; and a film screening. “The Clear Voice of Justice” exhibit, which draws on Saint Joseph’s archival items related to King and the speech, will open on Thursday, Oct. 12, and will be on display throughout the fall semester on the third floor of the Post Learning Commons' in the Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Special Collections Room.  Additional programming is being planned to run throughout the year.

“Among the many leaders, dignitaries and orators who have spoken publicly at Saint Joseph’s, Dr. King stands alone in stature and impact,” says University President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D. “A historical figure for the ages, his message from that day in 1967 is a clarion call 50 years later. ‘Our goal is freedom,’ as Dr. King said, and it is incumbent upon us, as a Jesuit, Catholic university, that our words and actions contribute to the realization of that goal.” 

Monica Nixon, Ed.D., assistant provost for inclusion and diversity, adds that “when Dr. King came to Saint Joseph’s in 1967, we were a nation still embroiled in inequality in many social settings: in housing, schools, employment, wages and the law,” she says. “It means a great deal that we were a college that extended the invitation to Dr. King, and that he chose to speak here to discuss solutions of policy, law and heart, to address both the overt and insidious effects of racism and inequality. As we we reflect on the work that still needs to be accomplished, this campus-wide event serves as a reminder that as a university community committed to justice, we have a particular responsibility to apply our knowledge, resources and influence to lead movements for equity.”

A schedule of the day’s events is listed below.

Teach-In, 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 2 p.m., at Campion Student Center, Presidents Lounge, (2nd floor)

Three innovative teachers — C. Ken Weidner II, Ph.D., assistant professor of management, Emily Hage, Ph.D., associate professor of art, Susan Liebell, Ph.D., associate professor of political science — are opening their classes to the public, offering lessons especially geared to explore themes that King raised. Visit the MLK Teach-In page for additional information.

Community Reading of Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1967 Speech, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Campion Student Center, Doyle Banquet Hall (2nd floor)

Join SJU President Mark C. Reed, Ed.D., Pa. State Rep. Morgan B. Cephas and others for a community reading of King's 1967 remarks and a celebration of the 50th anniversary commemoration.

Featured Panel: Where Do We Go from Here? Fulfilling Dr. King's Call to Action, 4 to 6 p.m., Campion Student Center, Doyle Banquet Hall (2nd floor)

Expert panelists — two SJU faculty members and one alumna — address the question of “Where do we go from here?" The panel discussion will provide both a retrospective on King’s speech at Saint Joseph’s when he called for immediate and direct action to attack poverty and racism and a prospective on what yet needs to be done to provide and insure good schools, good housing, and good jobs as ways to end poverty and racial discrimination. Panelists include Encarna Rodriguez, Ph.D., associate professor of education; Brent Smith, Ph.D., associate professor of marketing; and Corinne O'Connel '97, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity Philadelphia. Randall Miller, Ph.D., professor of history, will moderate. 

Film Screening and Discussion: Blaxploitalian, 6 to 7:30 p.m., Forum Theater, Campion Student Center

Blaxploitalian (2016) by acclaimed director Fred Kuwornu explores Blackness in Italian cinema. The movie spans over 100 years of Italian film history (from silent and colonial-era movies up to the present day) to recount the little-known story of how actors of African descent contributed to Italian cinema. The screening will be followed by a question-and-answer session with faculty in the modern languages department.

"The Clear Voice of Justice" Exhibit (opening Thursday, Oct. 12, 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. and running throughout the fall semester), Post Learning Commons' Gerard Manley Hopkins, S.J. Special Collections Room, 3rd floor

Celebrate the opening of this exhibition, which draws on correspondence, photographs and other items from the University Archives to encourage reflection on the meaning of King's visit to Saint Joseph's University and his principal message of continued resolve to end social injustice. The exhibition was made possible by the resources of the University Library.

Principal Curator: Christopher Dixon

Co-Curators: Emily Hage, Ph.D., associate professor of art, and Randall Miller, Ph.D., professor of history