According to University of Rochester: Fifty years ago, students at the University of Rochester reacted to the news of King’s assassination with emotion, but also a determination to continue his push for racial equality.Students led a march from the Eastman Quadrangle into the city of Rochester to attend a memorial service for King at the Civic Center plaza, and, just two days following King’s death, Rochester students announced the formation of the Black Students’ Union, making this the 50th anniversary year of the organization.
That same week in 1968, Paul Burgett ’68E, ’72E (MA), ‘76E (PhD)–then a senior at the Eastman School of Music–delivered a 12-minute speech commemorating King’s fight for social justice.
“This cause is branded with the misnomer of the Negro problem,” Burgett said. “It is branded with the name of the white problem, it is branded with all sorts of names, trying to find and attach a label to what amounts to, basically and without question, a human problem.”
Burgett remains at the University half a century later, serving as a vice president and senior advisor to the president.
In this 50th anniversary year, students are reflecting on the impact Martin Luther King has had on their lives. Their thoughts on King’s legacy also touch on some of the issues he grappled with in his own lifetime—specifically how skin color, identity, and culture are intertwined with race in ways that often create challenge and misunderstanding.