Past Observances

In 1999 author John Edgar Wideman's keynote address on Martin Luther King Jr. Day was less an occasional speech than a reading -- a lyrical, personal, work-in-progress shared with several hundred listeners in Alumni Gymnasium.

2008: “Modernizing King: Old Struggles, New Roots”

The Rev. Lawrence Carter, professor of religion at Morehouse College and curator and first dean of the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel.

2007: “Between Chaos and Community”

Civil rights activist and historian Cleveland Sellers, author of The River of No Return: The Autobiography of a Black Militant and the Life and Death of SNCC (University Press of Mississippi, 1990), first published in 1973.

2006: “The Noble Road to Peace: Storming the Battlements of Injustice”

Sharon Harley, pioneer in the field of African American women’s history and chair of the Department of African American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park.

2005: “From Montgomery to Memphis: Martin Luther King’s Legacy of Labor, Justice and Dignity”

The Rev. John Mendez, pastor of the Emmanuel Baptist Church, Winston-Salem, N.C., and the Winston-Salem Chronbicle’s 1994 Man of the Year., pioneer in the field of African American women’s history and chair of the Department of African American Studies, University of Maryland, College Park.

2004: “The Haitian Revolution: The Bicentennial and Its Legacy”

Alex Dupuy, professor of sociology and Latin American studies at Wesleyan University

2003: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Joanne Grant, award-winning filmmaker, writer and veteran civil rights activist of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Movement

2002: “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community?”

James Hal Cohn, Charles A. Briggs Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary


Jualynne E. Dodson, associate professor of Afro-American studies and religious studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder; Joanne Bland, tour director of the National Voting Rights Museum; and the Rev. James Foster Reese, director emeritus of the racial ethnic ministry unit for the Presbyterian Church (USA)


William R. Jones, philosopher, educator and minister


John Edgar Wideman, author and two-time winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award


Henri F. Norris, attorney, activist, and founder of New Millenia Films,; led effort to distribute the movie Follow Me Home


Charlayne Hunter-Gault, Emmy and Peabody award-winning national correspondent for PBS’s “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour”



(Also centennial celebration of Benjamin Mays’ birth)

Andrew Young, civil rights activist, ambassador, Atlanta mayor, and at the time instrumental in landing the 1996 Olympics for Atlanta


Roger Wilkins, civil rights leader, historian and journalist


Dorothy Butler Gilliam, columnist forThe Washington Post


Julius L. Chambers, director of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund

  • Watch Live

    Jan. 20, 9-11am, 1-2:45pm

    About Martin Luther King Jr. Day at Bates College
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an intense, community-wide opportunity to discuss, teach, and reflect on King’s legacy. The day is a time to examine contemporary human issues through the lens of King’s work and ideas, broadly defined. It is a day of thought, reflection, and aspiration for the entire community.