Although Black History Month does not officially begin until February 1st, it is never too early or often to recognize the accomplishments of the many African Americans who
have made their mark on MSU history, especially with the upcoming holiday for the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King’s contributions to the Civil Rights Movement cannot be understated, in addition to the thousands of others whose valiant efforts to end discriminatory practices have brought the US to where it is today. Four years before his death, Dr. King brought such issues to life when he visited MSU in person to speak at the Auditorium. The purpose of his visit was not only to discuss policies for desegregation in the south, but also to support the formation of a new and entirely unique student-run organization by the name of STEP. G. Scott Romney, former member of the MSU Board of Trustees and brother to Governor Mitt Romney, was an MSU student at the time of King’s speech, and in the Board meeting minutes years later he recalls, “Dr. King as being a very humble and respectful person, but one who had great power.” More information about the particulars of the 1965 visit can be found here, in the “Martin Luther King, Jr. Visits MSU” exhibit on the Archives’ website, including photographs and sound bites from his speech while on campus.
Among the other notable figures that made strides in education for African Americans were many of the students themselves. Although they already have a blog post dedicated to their
accomplishments (found here), Myrtle Craig, Gideon Smith, and Everett Yates cannot go unmentioned. Each of these three students were firsts for MSU in their own way, and each deserves recognition for their contributions to the advancement of higher education for African Americans and for opening the doors for future students to attend MSU. Ernest Green, of the Little
Rock Nine, was one such student. Green was famously the first African American to graduate in 1957 from Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas after months of harassment and debate. Upon his graduation, he received an anonymous full-ride scholarship (rumored to be from John Hannah, himself!), and went on to complete his undergraduate degree in Social Sciences at MSU. He is known to have said that his time spent at his alma mater transformed his life and taught him skills critical for his later success. Earvin “Magic” Johnson is another famous face that left an unrivaled legacy at MSU. Johnson is celebrated not only for his stellar basketball performances, but he has also gained national recognition for his efforts to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS through the creation of the Magic Johnson Foundation.
There could be an entry for every day of February concerning the vast array of contributions the African American community has made to MSU. From Myrtle Craig breaking not only racial and gender stereotypes, to Clifton Wharton, first black president of a major university – the list is endless, and a month could never encompass the accomplishments of each individual.