The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose extraordinary legacy will be
celebrated around the country today (Monday, Jan. 19), brought his
struggle for civil rights to the University of Hartford in
King delivered a speech on "The Future of Integration" on May 7,
1959, at Hartford's Bushnell Memorial Hall, as part of the
University of Hartford's Alexander S. Keller Memorial Fund Lecture
The University of Hartford was just two years old at the time of
King's speech, and King himself was only 30. He had already gained
national fame as the leader of the 1955-56 Montgomery, Ala., bus
boycott, but his historic "I Have a Dream" speech was still more
than four years away.
In addition to speaking as part of the Keller Lecture Series, King
met informally that day with students at the university's Hillyer
College, and with editors of the student newspaper, The
In January 2006, Reid MacCluggage
'62, who was Feature
Editor of The Callboard,
said: "I came away from that day
knowing I had been in the presence of a great man. Four years
before he shared his dream with the nation, he had shared it with
MacCluggage, a former university regent and retired editor and
publisher of The Day
(New London, Conn.), said that "to many
of us in the 1950s, the civil rights movement was only a Southern
issue. Dr. King corrected that impression. Civil rights was a human
After being introduced by Hillyer College President Alan S.
King began his lecture at The Bushnell by noting his
fondness for the Hartford area, having worked at a nearby tobacco
farm during the summer after his freshman year in college. He went
on to trace the history of African Americans, from slavery, through
emancipation and segregation, to the mid-1950s and the U.S. Supreme
Court decision declaring segregation in public schools
unconstitutional. "As a result of this decision," he said, "we
stand today on the threshold of the most creative and constructive
period of our nation's history."
King outlined the roles that government, religious leaders, and
others should play in the fight for integration and civil rights.
He urged them to act quickly and decisively, noting that "The hour
is late, the clock of destiny is ticking out."
King also discussed his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.
"Violence can only bring temporary victory," he said, "never
University of Hartford President Walter Harrison
King's 1959 speech "forever connects this university to one of
America's greatest heroes, the foremost American statesman and
visionary of the 20th century."
Original audiotapes of the speech are housed in the University
Two audio excerpts from King's University of Hartford speech are
Clip 1: King discusses the impact of the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court
decision in Brown v. Board of Education. (Read the text of this
Clip 2: King discusses his philosophy of nonviolent resistance.
text of this excerpt.)