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Monday, November 28, 2022

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This scanned newspaper photo is the only image SDSU has of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic SDSU speech. Credit: The San Diego Union, 1964. This scanned newspaper photo is the only image SDSU has of Martin Luther King Jr.'s historic SDSU speech. Credit: The San Diego Union, 1964.

Searching for Memories

SDSU is calling on the community to share photos and memories from Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1964 campus address.
By Beth Downing Chee

More than 4,000 people attended Martin Luther’s King, Jr.’s speech at San Diego State in 1964, yet few remnants of that historic day remain.

“When Dr. King came to San Diego State, he had just been named Time Magazine’s Man of the Year and was about to be named the youngest Nobel Peace Prize winner in history; he was already a global icon," said Seth Mallios, chair of SDSU’s anthropology department. 

"Yet, the audio and transcript of the speech have been lost, there is no video, and there is only one grainy newspaper photograph of Dr. King at San Diego State’s Open Air Theatre. Furthermore, we have only been able to find two people who attended the historic event.”

Help from the community

As SDSU prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of King’s campus address, the university is calling on the community for help. An e-mail has been set up, asking those who attended the event to share their memories and photos.

“Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to San Diego State is undoubtedly one of the most important moments in campus history,” Mallios said.

“I desperately hope that local community members have some mementos from this event that will shed light on the Civil Rights Movement in San Diego and on Dr. King’s vision for racial harmony across the nation and world.”

On May 29, 1964, King visited what was then San Diego State College and gave a public address in the Open Air Theatre. His impassioned speech urged all Americans to push for the passage of legislation that would help counter racial prejudice, bigotry and intolerance. 

Honoring diversity 

SDSU will commemorate King’s landmark appearance and speech at 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 30, during a free public event featuring addresses by local community leaders, civil rights advocates, historians and students. 

The event will be held in the courtyard of the California Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre and will be immediately followed by SDSU’s Annual Diversity Awards at 4:30 p.m. in Montezuma Hall at the Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union. 

Share your story

SDSU asks community members with personal experience — or those who may have anecdotal stories from King’s SDSU visit — as well as photos or memorabilia, to e-mail or call 619-594-3952.

Photos and memorabilia shared by the community may be posted online or displayed during the April 30 ceremony.