Integrationist Delivers Sermon at Mount Holyoke College

by Laurel | January 16th, 2012

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

While Dr. Martin Luther King’s visit to Mount Holyoke College did make the front page of The Springfield Republican, it wasn’t the lead story of the day. “Hurricane Born off N.C. Coast” was the headline on this day with other supporting weather related articles. Looking at the date of Dr. King’s visit to Mount Holyoke, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was enacted July 2, 1964, less than a year later.

21 October 1963

Dr. King Heard At Mount Holyoke Sermon by 3000

Dr. King arrived at Mount Holyoke College 30 minutes prior to the time his sermon was to begin, due to missing a plane and then being rerouted to a different flight taking him from New Jersey to Hartford. The “missed” flight as it turns out was delayed and never made it off the ground.

Dr. King preached to 3000 people at Mount Holyoke College, and said he could not promise there would be no further outbreaks of violence in the South as racial tensions heightened and lawmakers continue to be stalemated on the administrator’s civil rights bill.

Returning to Birmingham

Following the sermon, Dr. King told newsmen that he planned to return to Birmingham today to reassess the racial situation. Dr. King had imposed a Tuesday deadline there for city officials to hire 25 Negro policemen as a positive step toward desegregation.

King, minister and pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference said he was committed to nonviolence, but planned to renew peaceful demonstrations in Birmingham should city officials be reticent to accent his ultimatum. He said “I have hopes that these city officials will show good faith and display meaningful action.”

In speaking of the controversial civil rights bill, Fr. King said that passage of the bill “in all its dimensions will restore hope in the Negro community.” He indicated, however that failure of the bill to pass in its strongest form would “make the task of those of use committed to nonviolence much more difficult,” and perhaps open the doors for more radical integrationist elements to enter the picture.

Opposes Softer Bill

Dr. King said he was against a “watered down” version and Atty. General Robert Kennedy’s efforts at compromise. Fearing that the bill now before lawmakers would be watered down in any event, he avowed that it would be better to “water down a strong one rather than a weak one.”

Asks for Brotherhood

In a prayer prior to his sermon, Dr. King asked for a “brotherhood that transcends race of color.”

Dr. King dealt in his sermon with the development of the three dimensions of a complete life: length, breadth and height. He explained length as concerned with the individual, breadth as concern for others and height as the concern for the infinite, or God. He said without development of all three, life is not complete.

He warned that without “love of self” there is danger of the abyss of “emotional fatalism.” As an example he urged that if a street sweeper is your lot “sweep as Michelangelo painted or Shakespeare wrote.” He said “If you can’t be a tree, be a bush … strive for excellence in whatever your endeavor.”

Adapted from The Springfield Republican, image creative commons via Wikipedia.

2 Responses to “Integrationist Delivers Sermon at Mount Holyoke College”

  1. Susan Green LaGrande says:

    I remember that sermon, although I did not remember the specific topic. Early that morning my friend and I went to the amphitheater and noticed that someone had placed virulently racist pamphlets on all the seats; we were shocked! We hastily gathered them up and took them to the campus police. I don’t know what we expected the cops to do about it, but we didn’t want Dr. King to see the pamphlets and think that MHC was not a welcoming place.

  2. Susan, what an interesting insight to that day, despite the fact there was racist pamphlet distribution involved! You are very fortunate to have had the opportunity to hear Dr. King speak in person — a fantastic memory! And at MHC — didn’t attend the College, but I was employed by them for a few years and loved it! So glad you left the comment!

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