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College to commemorate MLK visit with plaque

May 5, 2017

In commemoration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Bowdoin on May 6, 1964, the College will unveil a plaque in Main Lounge of Moulton Union this summer.

King was invited to Bowdoin in 1964 by the Bowdoin Political Forum, a student group. His lecture, originally scheduled to be held in Pickard Theater, was moved to First Parish Church to accommodate a larger crowd. Afterwards, King partook in a smaller roundtable with students and faculty in Main Lounge.

Wayne Burton ’66, now a state representative in New Hampshire, was one of the students in attendance that night.

“The Civil Rights Movement was foreign to me. At the time, I think Bowdoin had maybe three black students total. It was not exactly a hotbed of diversity,” he said. “When my roommate said we should go see the speaker, I was more interested in getting out of doing my economics studying.”

During the roundtable discussion, King addressed a variety of topics, such as interracial marriage and desegregation and emphasized the importance of nonviolent protest.

Given the opportunity to ask a question, Burton asked King how racial justice was relevant to him as a white student at a predominantly white school in a predominantly white state.

“That’s when [King] said words to the effect of, ‘If your conscience stops at the border of Maine, you’re less of a person that you should be. You’re as responsible for what happens in Birmingham as you are in Brunswick, Maine,’” Burton said.

Although it has been 53 years since King spoke, Burton still remembers his sentiment.

“Once you heard Dr. King, his voice stayed with you,” he said.

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