Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Three Days In Jamaica

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr is a global icon and his life and work still mean a lot to people everywhere. As many of you know, Dr King visited Jamaica in 1965. The purpose of his visit was to deliver the valedictory address at The University of the West Indies, Mona. Below is an account from The Gleaner‘s Pieces of the Past series, by Dr Rebecca Tortello:

That Sunday evening at the UWI Mona campus, the 400 plus graduates donned their traditional caps and red gowns and filed not into the chapel where the valedictory services are traditionally held, but into Assembly Hall in order to accommodate the large audience generated by DrKing’s appearance. As Dr Anthony Allen remembers today, “it was a packed house and Dr King was very well received by all present, especially the students”.

Keith Gardener, then Director of Sports at the UWI, remembers feeling part of “a warm gathering that was not limited to students and UWI personnel.”

Dr King’s speech was entitled “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” and he spoke about the passing of an old colonial order, the need for a worldwide brotherhood given that we are all increasingly interdependent, the need to fight any kind of injustice with love and the need for us all to strive to be the best we can be at whatever we chose to do in our lives. When asked what they remembered about the sermon specifically, Allen, Gardner and Bryan each quoted the following segment:

“If it falls to our luck to be street-sweepers, sweep the streets like Raphael painted pictures, like Michaelangelo carved marble, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, and like Beethoven composed music. Sweep the streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth would have to pause and say ‘Here lived a great street sweeper.”

“The time is always right to do right,” Dr King exhorted, noting that “whenever a new nation comes into history, it brings with it new challenges and new responsibilities. The great challenge facing all of us today — is to somehow stand before the opportunities of the moment and face the challenges of the hour with creativity and with commitment and with determination.”

Following the service, Dr King attended a dinner at Kings House, hosted by then Governor-General Sir Clifford Campbell and Lady Campbell. The next day, he delivered a stirring 40-minute address at a packed civic reception at the National Arena, after which he was given the Keys to the City of Kingston. The following day, he visited the grave of National Hero Marcus Garvey to lay a wreath out of respect for a man he said, gave Negroes in the US a sense of dignity,.. (Read more)

Here are some of the highlights of Dr King’s three-day visit, in photos:

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The Rev Dr Martin Luther King delivering the sermon at a valedictory service at the University of the West Indies in June 1965. Others on platform (from left) are the Rev John Hoad, the Rev Horace Russell and the Rev PR Hazell.

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The Gleaner FOLLOWING THE VALEDICTORY SERVICE at the University, their Excellencies the Governor General, Sir Clifford Campbell, and Lady Campbell gave a dinner at King's House in honour of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mrs King and the Rev. Bernard Lee. Dr. King is seated second from left facing camera. In the same row from left are: Senator Mrs. Esme Grant, Lady Campbell, the Hon. D. C. Tavares, Mrs Douglas Fletcher, the Hon. V. N. Aguilar, Mrs. C. A. M. Moody, the Rev. Hugh Sherlock, Mrs. Donald Fitz-Ritson and Mr. L. O. Ramson. From left with back to camera are: Mrs Sherlock the Rev. Lee, Mrs. Aguilar, Senator Douglas Fletcher and Mrs. F. R. Duhaney. The other guests were the Hon. Edward Seaga, Senator Dr. Ronald Irvine and Mrs. Irvine, the Rev. Canon R. O. C. King and Mrs. King, Professor and Mrs. John Golding, Lt. Col. C. A. M. Moody, Dr. and Mrs. Hugh Springer, Mr Donald Fitz-Ritson, Mr. Milton Rodriques, Mr. T. E. Sealy, Mr and Mrs. Leacroft Robinson, Miss Clair Campbell, Mr and Mrs A. W. Powell, Capt. R. E. C. Lewis, the ADC and Capt N.A. Ogilvie, extra ADC.
Dr King is seated 2nd from left facing camera. In the same row from left are: Senator Esme Grant, Lady Campbell, the Hon DC Tavares, Mrs Douglas Fletcher, the Hon VN Aguilar, Mrs CAM Moody, Rev Hugh Sherlock, Mrs Donald Fitz-Ritson and LO Ramson. From left with back to camera are: Mrs Sherlock, Rev Lee, Mrs Aguilar, Senator Douglas Fletcher and Mrs FR Duhaney.

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In this Gleaner file photo, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, iconic leader of the civil rights movement in the United States, addresses a crowd at Jamaica’s National Stadium on June 21, 1965.