Associate Professor and Head of the Community Fellows Program, MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)
In April of 1968, MIT cancels classes to join the nation in mourning the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.
MIT begins its annual commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1975, seven years after his assassination. A year later, Martin Luther King Day becomes a designated Institute holiday, in 1976, a decade before its first official observance as a federal holiday.
MLK Observance exhibit at the Student Center, late 1960s. Courtesy MIT Museum
Recalling MLK’s Time in Cambridge
"Recalling MLK’s Time in Cambridge," Slice of MIT, 22 January 2019 By Jay London
While [Martin Luther King, Jr.] never made a public appearance at MIT, he was a common visitor to Cambridge from the 1950s—when he was a doctoral student at Boston University—until the mid-1960s.
According to a January 2013 article in the Harvard Gazette, King took philosophy courses at Harvard in 1952 and 1953 and he was a guest preacher at Harvard’s Memorial Church in 1959 and 1960. He delivered a lecture titled “The Future of Integration” at Harvard Law School in 1962 and spoke at Memorial Church and Cambridge Rindge and Latin School on the same day in January 1965.
King’s name appears regularly in issues of The Tech in the 1960s, including:
A brief story on October 10, 1962, mentions a proposed debate between King and Malcolm X.
A March 12, 1965, article references the nearly 50 MIT faculty members who planned to take part in King-directed demonstrations in Selma and Montgomery, Alabama
A March 25, 1965, story discusses a telegram from King to then-Undergraduate Association President Bill Byrn ’66, SM ’68.
The archives at the King Center museum also include two letters to King from the MIT/Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies that discuss the center’s Social Statistics in the City conference that took place in June 1967.
According to a video by MIT Productions, King’s death directly led to, among other endeavors, the formation of the MIT Black Students' Union and the creation of Interphase (now Interphase EDGE), a seven-week summer program that prepared incoming students for the rigors of MIT.