In pictures: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visits University of Michigan in 1962

Librarian discovered forgotten negatives in box in 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speaks at Hill Auditorium, Nov. 11, 1962

ANN ARBOR – As the University of Michigan marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with a symposium of events lasting through March, a visit from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself to the Ann Arbor campus was nearly forgotten.

He spoke to students at Hill Auditorium on Nov. 5, 1962.

Less than 10 months later, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he would deliver his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in Washington, D.C.

Photos of Dr. King's visit to Ann Arbor were rediscovered by chance in 2012 by digital curator David Erdody.

Dr. King shakes hands with students at Hill Auditorium following his speech, Nov. 5, 1962 (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

According to archivist Karen Lee Jania (Erdody's supervisor) at U-M's Bentley Historical Library, the negatives were kept in a box for years.

In an interview with the Michigan Daily, former U-M president James Duderstadt said King's visit stirred waters at the time.

"There apparently was a controversy because in his speech, King suggested the importance of civil disobedience, and I guess a couple of the (university) regents raised concerns about that," Duderstadt told the Daily. “It was almost exactly 50 years ago, and it was a time when Martin Luther King was a pretty controversial person. The FBI was tracking him and so forth."

According to school records, King gave two lectures that day: "Moral Issues in Discrimination" and "The Future of Integration." His brief visit received little press coverage.

Students line up to speak with Dr. King at Hill Auditorium, Nov. 5, 1962 (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

A President’s Report to the Board of Regents around that time said that both of King's addresses in Hill Auditorium were given to a "filled audience." The University of Michigan's Office of Religious Affairs and the Michigan Union Special Projects Committee organized the event.

Although no copies of his speeches exist, according to school records King told U-M students, "We must learn to live together as brothers or we will die together as fools."

Testimonials of students who heard him speak on campus reveal that U-M's campus was "alive and electrified" during his visit, at a time when civil rights was at the core of student discussions.

King would never return to Ann Arbor, citing a fully-booked schedule of speaking engagements in a letter to Eugene Ransom, a religious counselor at U-M in 1964.

Later that year, King became the youngest man to have received the Nobel Peace Prize at the age of thirty-five.

King speaks with students at the Michigan Union (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

Dr. King attends a dinner on his Ann Arbor visit in 1962 (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

In 1965, more than 4,000 students attended a lecture by King at Michigan State University.

On April 4, 1968, King was assassinated on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, as he prepared to lead a protest march in support of striking garbage workers.

According to minutes from a university regent's meeting in April 1968, the university was "stunned" by his death. During that meeting, regents set up a scholarship fund in his name and later passed a resolution memorializing King.

On April 9, 1968, the day King was buried in Atlanta following his assassination, U-M students in the newly formed Black Student Union chained themselves inside the Administration Building (now the LSA building) for five hours, demanding more hires of African-American faculty and more funding for African-American students.

Students take over the Administration Building on the day of the slain civil rights activist's funeral (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

The lockdown ended following talks with then-president Robben Fleming. Following the event, the Black Student Union joined a nationwide trend calling for black studies to be added to curricula across American universities.

As a result, the Center for Afroamerican and African Studies (now the Department of Afroamerican and African Studies) was established at University of Michigan in 1970.

Students collect money as a tribute for King for the Poor People's March on Washington on the Diag in April, 1968 (Photo: Media Resources Center records, the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan)

All photographs are subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.