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MLK Celebration History

The first student-organized Martin Luther King, Jr. Commemorative Service was held at the University in January 1982.  The student group, Men Interested in Alpha (MIA), worked with the Greenville graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. to organize this commemorative observance at the newly renovated Tillman Hall Auditorium.  In 1983, MIA group members became charter members of the Pi Alpha Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc.  Over the years, the Pi Alpha Chapter has continued its involvement with Clemson’s Martin Luther King, Jr. observance.

Early speakers for the commemorative observance included Dr. Charles T. Battle, M.D., Seneca; the Rev. Sammy Jackson, pastor, St. James United Methodist Church, Seneca; the honorable Frank Gilbert, former S.C. state senator; the Rev. James O. Rich, pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, Anderson; and Dr. Lewis Suggs, former professor of history at Clemson.

In the fall of 1986, the Student Government Minority Council (now Council on Diversity Affairs), Pi Alpha Chapter and the Clemson University Black History and Culture Committee organized the first commemorative march to precede the service.  Originally, the march was held from the old band practice field to Tillman Hall Auditorium.  By the late 80’s, the march and service were firmly established as dual events.

The spring of 1998 marked a year of renewed commitment from the University with the formation of the MLK Enhancement Committee (composed of Pi Alpha Chapter, Undergradaute Student Government Council on Diversity Affairs, Clemson staff and faculty, and community members) and funding from the Office of the President for the MLK celebration.  This funding and strong administrative support from the then Gantt Intercultural Center (now Gantt Multicultural Center) have helped expand the celebration to include a day of service and a variety of other programs for the campus and community.  The increased funding and support have also enabled the committee to bring nationally recognized speakers to campus such as Myrlie Evers-Williams, Susan L. Taylor, Ossie Davis, Dorothy Cotton, Dr. David Levering Lewis, Ed Gordon, Ambassador Andrew Young, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lowery, Barbara Cross, Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook, Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, Senator Carol Moseley Braun, Nontombi Naomi Tutu, Harry E. Johnson, Sr., David Hilliard and Dr. Bob Zellner.

Past Speakers

The Celebration features keynote speakers who give their perspective on Dr. King’s Legacy and how it applies to today’s society. Speakers are listed in reverse order of their appearance at Clemson.

2017
Dr. Walter Kimbrough
Seventh President of Dillard University

2016

Sybrina Fulton
Mother of Trayvon Martin

2015
Dr. Brian Johnson
Seventh President of Tuskegee University

2014
Dr. Bob Zellner
Civil Rights Activist, former Freedom Rider and Author

2013
David Hilliard
Founding Member and former Chief of Staff, Black Panther Party

2012
Harry E. Johnson, Sr., Esq.
President / CEO MLK Memorial Foundation

2011
Nontombi Naomi Tutu
Human Rights Activist

2010
Carol Moseley Braun
Entrepreneur, Ambassador & Former Senator

2009
Dr. Freeman A. Hrabowski, III
Educator

2008
Dr. Samuel DuBois Cook
Educator

2007
Barbara Cross
Speaker & Activist

2006
Rev. Joseph Lowery
Leader & Activist

2005
Andrew Young
Ambassador & Former Mayor

2004
Ed Gordon
TV Host & Journalist

2003
Dorothy Cotton
Professor & Activist

2002
David Levering Lewis
Historian & Author

2001
Susan Taylor
Publisher & Entrepreneur

2000
Ossie Davis
Actor & Activist

1999
Myrlie Evers-Williams
Civil Rights Activist