'Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution'

January 15, 2021

Office of Communications

Two men wearing graduation caps and robes look out into a crowd.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Oberlin College President Robert Carr at the 1965 graduation exercises.
Photo credit: Arthur E. Princehorn courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day we look back at the civil rights activist's visits to Oberlin College, and the powerful 1965 commencement speech he gave in Tappan Square.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Oberlin College several times, first in February 1957, a few months after he and the Montgomery Improvement Association successfully ended the bus boycott. During this visit he presented three topics to the Oberlin community: "Justice Without Violence" and "The New Negro in the South" at the First Church of Oberlin and "The Montgomery Story" during a noon assembly at Finney Chapel. Rev. King returned to Oberlin in November 1963, but was too sick with the flu to speak. His two-minute speech received a three-minute standing ovation. In October 1964, shortly after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, his talk in Finney Chapel titled "The Future of Integration" was heard by an estimated 2,500 people. This visit was accompanied by death threats. Local police officers attended the talk to provide protection for him and his press secretary. 

A large crowd looks at a man on a stage giving a speech.
The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. addresses members of the graduating class and guests. Photo credit: Arthur E. Princehorn courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

In 1965, Oberlin College awarded Rev. King an honorary degree. His commencement speech, "Remaining Awake Through a Revolution," was heard by 483 members of the graduating class along with a record number of returning alumni. 




Read Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1965 commencement address

The photographic images in this article may not be downloaded or reproduced. Permission for reproduction must be sought from the Oberlin College Archives.



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