Drew Remembers Dr. King’s Visit in ’64
Campus radio station to replay speech.
**New date: This event has been rescheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 26, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. in the Ehinger Center.**
The year was 1964. The nation was reeling from President Kennedy’s assassination, the Beatles had come to the states, the Vietnam War was escalating and college activism was heating up around the country.
And at Drew, the campus was getting ready to host one of the most famous men in the country.
Theology professor George D. Kelsey had invited his friend Martin Luther King Jr., to speak on campus and King —who had known Kelsey as a mentor at Morehouse College—had accepted. King had just been named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year and, later that year, he would attend the signing of the Civil Rights Act at the White House and be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
On Feb. 5, 1964, King was flown by helicopter from JFK Airport to Newark Airport, then driven by limousine to Drew.
King attended a faculty reception at 4:15 p.m., ate dinner at the President’s House at 6 p.m., and began his speech at 8:15 p.m. Loudspeakers broadcast the speech, titled “An American Dream,” to other buildings on campus to accommodate the overflow crowd. In all, some 5,000 people from the Drew community and surrounding towns came to hear his speech.
This February 5, 2014, on the 50th anniversary of King’s visit to Drew, the university will commemorate his speech by replaying it live on the campus radio station www.wmnjtheforest.com and broadcasting it at lunchtime in the Ehinger Center. In addition, Christopher J. Anderson G’06, head of special collections for the United Methodist Archives and History Center , and Drew Archivist Matthew Beland G’08 will provide commentary about the speech on the radio and invite listeners who attended the event to send in their comments.
Anderson, who hosts a weekly radio show on WMNJ, said, “The broadcast highlights King’s relationship with Drew professor George Kelsey and also brings attention to Drew’s involvement with King’s civil rights activities. Drew faculty, staff and students were involved with church integration activities in Jackson, Mississippi, and the Selma marches in 1965.”
King’s speech touched on topics that still resonate—racism, religious intolerance, homelessness, hunger, compassion and equality. He spoke for 50 minutes and took questions for a half an hour afterwards. Media outlets, from Drew’s student paper, The Acorn, to The New York Times, covered the speech.
For Drewids who weren’t alive then, the radio station rebroadcast will bring to life King’s words to a whole new generation.