Reflecting on King's Legacy

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his nonviolent campaign against racial inequality. Two months later King addressed a crowd of more than 8,000 people at Penn State's University Park campus.

“We need only to open our newspapers and turn on our televisions, and we see with our own eyes that this problem is still with us. We can look around in our communities, wherever we live, and we will see it because no community can boast of clean hands in the area of brotherhood, and so if we will only look, [if] we will only notice the developments in our nation, we will be objective enough and realistic enough and honest enough to know that we have a long, long way to go.”—Dr. Martin Luther King, Penn State, Jan. 21, 1965

King's speech came six months after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. Acknowledging the country's progress since the bill's enactment, King emphasized that there was still work to be done. In his talk, focused on the future of integration, his intent was to rally public support for ending all forms of segregation.

Martin Luther King in Rec Hall, January 21, 1965

Martin Luther King in Rec Hall, January 21, 1965

On Jan. 21, 1965, Martin Luther King visited Penn State and addressed a crowd of more than 8,000 people in Recreation Hall on the future of integration. He spoke to those assembled about the civil rights movement, America’s legacy of slavery and segregation, and the principles he believed would change the world, bringing many in the assembly to tears. Only a few weeks earlier he had received the Nobel Peace Prize for his nonviolent campaign against racial inequality.

Image: Penn State University Archives

"Somewhere we must see that human progress never rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. It comes through the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals willing to be co-workers with God, and without this hard work, time itself becomes an ally of the primitive forces of social stagnation. We must help time, and we must constantly realize that the time is always right to do right."—Dr. Martin Luther King, Penn State, January 21, 1965

"We have come a long, long way in the struggle for racial justice, but we have a long, long way to go before the problem is solved."—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses a crowd at Penn State University Park's Rec Hall

Martin Luther King addresses more than 8,000 people at Penn State

Just six months after President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed a crowd of more than 8,000 people on Penn State's University Park campus on the future of integration. His intent was to rally public support for ending all forms of segregation, urging that "the challenge ahead is to work passionately and unrelentingly to remove racial injustice from every area of our nation's life." 

Image: Penn State University Archives

"And I say to you that I still have faith in America, and I still have the faith to believe that we will solve this problem. We have the resources in this nation to solve it and I believe that gradually we are gaining the will to solve it. and that is developing a coalition of conscience on the question of racial injustice, and I would hope that in the days ahead, the forces of goodwill will work even harder in order to go this additional distance in order to make the brotherhood of man a reality all over America."—Dr. Martin Luther King, Penn State, January 21, 1965

Six different versions of the All In logo displayed as buttons

We Are All In

“Diversity and inclusion are part of the fabric of who we are as a University. The "All In" initiative is encouraging all members of the community to reflect on that and ‘Be who you are. Together.’—Dr. Eric Barron

Image: Rowland Creative

All quotes come from Dr. King's 1965 address at Rec Hall on Penn State's University Park campus on January 21, 1965. A Penn State Historical Marker stands near Rec Hall to commemorate this significant moment in history. Even then, the impact of King's work was evident to those who gathered to listen to his message.

Feature image and on-campus digital signage: University Archives and blackhistory.psu.edu

Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration

Each year, Penn State holds a series of events for students, faculty, staff, and the community to commemorate Martin Luther King, Jr. This year, in addition to celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of King's speech at Rec Hall, the Office of the Vice Provost for Educational Equity also celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of its Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemoration

For a full schedule of this year's events, including an opportunity to hear the entirety of the historic Rec Hall address, visit www.mlk.psu.edu/schedule-of-events