Though the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech passed last week, some on Ohio State’s campus are still reflecting on the its long-term effects on the university.
On Aug. 28, 1963, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of more than 200,000 civil rights supporters during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, a rally intended to draw attention to the social and political challenges African-Americans were facing at the time. It was then that he delivered one of the most well-known speeches in American history.
The director of the Frank W. Hale Jr. Black Cultural Center, Lawrence Williamson Jr., said he believes King left a legacy that represents an ideal to work toward.
“Dr. King and the civil rights movement helped Americans understand how to be proud without devaluing other communities,” Williamson said.
Williamson, however, questioned whether or not Americans are taking full advantage of King’s message and the lessons he attempted to teach.
“I think the question we really need to ask ourselves as a community, and a nation, is ‘Did we do the best we could with these opportunities we had and did we use them in accordance to the way Dr. King wanted us to?’ After all, he gave his life for us to do so,” Williamson said.
Some OSU students said there are further strides that could be made.
“It is definitely a time of celebration and a time of reflection to see this is how far we’ve come but we still have room to grow,” said Anthony Perry, a second-year in public affairs.
Mackensie Pfleger, a second-year in international studies, said OSU has come a long way in 50 years and senses this progress on campus.
“I think being on a college campus with affirmative action and one that socially, it is not a big deal for people of different races to hang out or date, shows that as a culture we have come full circle,” Pfleger said.
According to OSU undergraduate admission’s quick facts, the Autumn 2012 incoming freshman class was 4.3 percent African-American. On a larger scale, African-American students made up 5.78 percent of the Autumn 2012 Columbus campus enrollment, according to the OSU Statistical Summary.
Horace Newsum, the OSU Department of African-American and African Studies chair, hopes the focus moving forward is on King’s ultimate vision rather than the past.
“I would hope that people would commit themselves to Martin King’s vision, which was about social justice, which was about racial equality, which was about peace and love. I don’t think Martin King would be encouraging us to engage in war with anybody,” Okafor-Newsum said.