King calls Cal students “the conscience of our nation”

Black and white photo of Martin Luther King Jr. speaking to a crowd

Martin Luther King Jr. speaks

“America has brought the nation and the world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future… And yet we have not learned the simple art of walking the earth as brothers and sisters.”

So said Martin Luther King Jr. on May 17, 1967, as the Vietnam War raged and our campus seethed. He spoke on the steps of Sproul Hall before a rapt crowd of more than 7,000 people. The minister and civil rights leader told students, ”You, in a real sense, have been the conscience of the academic community and our nation.”

Berkeley’s student union was renamed after King in 1985, after petitioning by the late Ronnie Stevenson, an early Black Panther Party member, Berkeley alum, and staff member. A historic photograph of King taken by the late Helen Nestor hangs in the building.

“It was a warm and special feeling to photograph him,” said Nestor, who was allowed to photograph King at close range because of her disability. “The students were very charged up and very much with Dr. King.”

Listen to King’s 1967 speech at UC Berkeley.

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