[MLK Holiday Commemoration\Queens College]
Dr. King at Queens College on May 13, 1965, speaking on the murder of Andrew Goodman: “I certainly stand here under the inspiration of the fact that it was Queens College that gave to America, and indeed to the world, Andrew Goodman…He, along with others, paid the supreme price for this struggle and I’m sure that we will see in many ways that his death was not in vain.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shown here being arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, on Sep. 3, 1958, on a “loitering” charge outside of a courthouse. Dr. King had been trying to attend the hearing of Ed Davis, who was accused of attacking King’s colleague Ralph Abernathy.
Queens College Interim President William Tramontano has issued the following statement in commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, January 20, 2020. Dr. King spoke at the college on May 13, 1965, less than a year after QC student Andrew Goodman was murdered in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964.
As we observe the upcoming holiday in honor of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we at Queens College are inevitably reminded of the personal connection we have to the fallen civil rights leader and the movement he led. It was another casualty in that struggle, one of our own, whose sacrifice Dr. King chose to acknowledge at the beginning of a 40-minute address he gave at Queens College on May 13, 1965. It was less than a year since Queens College student Andrew Goodman had been murdered in Mississippi along with two other Civil Rights activists, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, by members of the Ku Klux Klan during Freedom Summer 1964.
“I certainly stand here,” Dr. King said, “under the inspiration of the fact that it was Queens College that gave to America, and indeed to the world, Andrew Goodman, whose creative witness will certainly live for generations yet unborn. He, along with others, paid the supreme price for this struggle and I’m sure that we will see in many ways that his death was not in vain.”
Indeed, the spirit of King’s crusade lives on at Queens College in the persons of individuals who, like Goodman, were part of it. Artifacts of their participation can be found in the Queens College Civil Rights Archives. They include those of Rabbi Moshe Shur, who this week is again leading a group of Queens College students on a tour of significant sites in the Civil Rights Movement as part of the annual In the Footsteps of Dr. King’s program. An ever-present reminder greets all on campus each day when bells toll the beginning of each hour from the library’s Chaney-Goodman-Schwerner Clocktower.
Dr. King’s address was delivered as the first in a series of John F. Kennedy Memorial Lectures, honoring another important leader recently felled by an assassin’s bullet. Part lecture, part sermon, it reflected on the entirety of the struggle of African-Americans for racial equality in their country post-slavery.
“Because of the lack of educational opportunities, because of discrimination and because of the denial of apprenticeship training,” observed King, “we as a people have been limited to unskilled or semi-skilled labor, not because we didn’t have the ability to do the job but because opportunities denied us the training to do them.”
Further, he warned, “Poverty, ignorance, disease, social isolation, economic deprivation breed crime, whatever the racial group may be. Criminal responses are environmental and not racial. It is a torturous logic to use the tragic results of segregation as an argument for the continuation of it. It is necessary to go back to the causal root and grapple with that. If our nation is to grow and develop, we must see this in a real way.”
Yet, in the face of the harsh realities presented to his congregation that day, ever the Baptist minister King offered direction, “…you love every man not because you like him, not because his ways appeal to you, but as theologians would say, ‘because God loves him.’ You rise to the level of loving the person who does the evil deed, while hating the deed that the person does. You resist the evil with all of your might and all of the strength that you can muster. You maintain this active goodwill knowing that hate destroys the hater as well as the hated.”
And, ever a man of faith, Dr. King parted on that historic day at Queens College with, “…I still have faith in the future. However dark the night, however dreary the day, I still believe that we shall overcome.“
Today, almost 55 years later, we honor Dr. King’s memory and continue to pursue the dream of a better and more just society for all of its members.