ASU recently purchased two books written and signed by Martin Luther King Jr. following the University's annual celebrations during MLK Day weekend.
The books are first-edition signed copies of King’s 1958 memoir, “Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story", about the Montgomery Bus Boycott, and a 1963 collection of his sermons titled “Strength to Love.”
The books were purchased as part of an effort by the School of Civic Thought and Leadership to add rare texts by influential people to the ASU library archives. The texts will be used to educate the ASU community and general public on key historical figures.
The acquisition was led by Paul Carrese, the school's director, who said King’s texts are the ideal addition to the collection to represent the history of civil rights movements in the United States.
“One of the striking things about King for me is that even though he faced extraordinary discrimination, he believed in the American political order,” Carrese said.
To celebrate the civil rights leader, ASU's Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee leads an annual day of service and march on the West campus. This year marked the 33rd annual weekend of ASU events celebrating King's legacy.
“These books are important because King made great contributions to the U.S.,” said Keith Miller, an ASU English professor.
Arizona has an unique history when it comes to King. The NFL refused to host the 1993 Super Bowl in Arizona because the state did not recognize MLK Day as a holiday at the time. The 1996 Super Bowl was then held in Arizona after the state officially recognized the holiday.
Matthew Delmont, director of the ASU School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies said King influenced the whole country to be more accepting, but civil rights are still being debated.
"Sadly, a lot things that civil rights leaders were fighting for in the 1960s are still being fought for today," Miller said.
He said the 1993 incident led many people to view Arizona as a prejudiced state despite a history of civil rights activism, including from King himself.
In 2014, a recording was discovered of a 1964 speech King made at ASU. King's visit came less than a month before the Civil Rights Act was passed, and he expressed his support for the bill and spoke out against racial inequality in the U.S. and the rest of the world.
“We are challenged to get rid of the notion, once and for all, that there are superior and inferior races," King said during his speech. “America never will be a great nation, and the world never will be a great world, until we get rid of this false idea.”
The speech took place despite opposition from then-Arizona Republican Senator Barry Goldwater.
Carrese said King’s books and other texts will eventually be on display at the Hayden Library and will be loaned out to other educational institutions.
Miller said these books provide perfect material for a holistic examination of King both as an activist and an individual.
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