Nearly 50 years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. visited San Diego and gave a public address at the Open Air Theatre at what was then San Diego State College. Today, San Diego State University (SDSU) is searching for memories from that historic event – hoping the public can share any mementos.
According to the university, MLK’s speech on campus – delivered on May 29, 1964 – urged all Americans to push for the passage of legislation that would help counter racial prejudice, bigotry and intolerance.
More than 4,000 people attended that address, yet the university has very few remnants of that day.
Five decades later, SDSU said all that remains is a grainy photograph scanned from a newspaper article.
Seth Mallios, chair of SDSU’s anthropology department, said the audio and transcript of the speech have been lost and there is no video of the event. To date, Mallios said the university has only been able to track down two people who actually attended the civil rights leader’s address on campus.
Now, as SDSU prepares to celebrate the 50th anniversary of King’s local speech, the university is calling on the community for help, asking anyone who attended the event to share their memories, photos or audio recordings.
People can email the university at firstname.lastname@example.org with their mementos from King’s SDSU visit, or call (619) 594-3952. According to SDSU, photos and memorabilia shared by the community may be posted online or displayed during a special anniversary ceremony on Apr. 30.
Mallios said artifacts and anecdotes from that day are very important to the history of the university.
“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 Mallios. “Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to San Diego State is undoubtedly one of the most important moments in campus history.”
Mallios also said memories or photos from the event 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.”
SDSU will commemorate King’s local appearance and speech during a free public event on Apr. 30 at 3:30 p.m. in the courtyard of the Open Air Theatre. The event will feature addresses by local community leaders, civil rights advocates, historians and students.