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Courtesy Of / Columbia Daily Spectator Archives

In 1961, Martin Luther King Jr. visited Columbia’s McMillin (now Miller) Theatre to call on President John F. Kennedy to issue a “second emancipation proclamation.”

From the Spectator Archives: This article was originally published on Oct. 30, 1961. Minor edits have been made for clarity.

Martin Luther King Jr. called on President John F. Kennedy Friday night to issue a “second emancipation proclamation” to abolish all forms of segregation.

Segregation is “nothing but slavery covered up with certain niceties of complexion,” he told a sympathetic audience in Dodge Hall’s Emerson McMillin Academic Theatre.

He was welcomed to Columbia by John A. Krout, the University vice president. The evening was sponsored by the School of General Studies’ alumni magazine, The Owl. Speaking for the civil rights campaign of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, King said that Black people now “stand on the border of the promised land of integration.”

He asked Americans to face the “concomitant challenges of the emerging new order” of human dignity and freedom.

They must work for international brotherhood, get rid of any remaining notions of racial superiority or inferiority, and engage in a “creative protest” to break down racial barriers, he said.

The “tragic results” of segregation—poverty, disease, and ignorance—cannot be used as an argument for its continuation, he maintained.

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Martin Luther King Columbia President John F. Kennedy JFK MLK segregation
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