36th Annual MLK Celebration Leadership Award Recipient: Melvin “Mel” King

Melvin “Mel” King

Senior lecturer, emeritus, in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP)

36th Annual MLK Leadership Award

Mel King, South Boston, 1983. Photo: John Goodman
Mel King, South Boston, 1983. Photo: John Goodman

Melvin "Mel" King, senior lecturer, emeritus, in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) was nominated for his longstanding activism and community development work in the Boston area, as well as for his work in developing the Community Fellows Program at MIT.

The 2010 MLK Breakfast also honored Leo Osgood, the former MIT basketball coach, associate dean and director of the Office of Minority Education, who passed away in November of 2009.

“The honor has more meaning," said Prof. King, "since it comes as we are paying tribute to Leo Osgood and the stellar role he played living and providing opportunities for hundreds to realize their dreams.”

Prof. King has long been in the forefront of community issues. As executive Director of the New Urban League of Greater Boston, he was involved in various community organization efforts and business development programs in the Boston-Roxbury area. He has been a Massachusetts state representative (1973-1982) and candidate for mayor of Boston (1983) and the US Congress.

In an attempt to share his experiences during his many years of community involvement, Prof. King wrote Chain of Change: Struggles for Black Community Development (South End Press, 1981). The book documents the development of the Black community in Boston from the fifties to the eighties, demonstrating how black consciousness and power have developed through the struggles around jobs, housing, education, and politics. Prof. King proposes a strategy of community controlled economic development and political representation relevant to any major city.​

At MIT, he served as Adjunct Professor in DUSP and as founding director of the Community Fellows Program (CFP) for twenty-five years until his retirement in 1996. During the MLK celebrations each year, the CFP brings to MIT from 10 to 12 women and men working on issues that bear on people of color in America. Youth development, health and training are among the areas of concentration.

After retirement, Prof. King founded the South End Technology Center @ Tent City (The Tech Center), a collaborative venture between the Tent City Corporation (TCC) and MIT. SETC's fundamental purpose is to enable people to become producers of knowledge and sharers of ideas and information. The program provides free/low-cost access and training in most aspects of computer-related technology.