The King Collection Gives Grady High Students Insight On Life of Martin Luther King Jr.

Date Released: September 29, 2017

By Tammy Joyner
Contributing Writer for morehouse.edu

Students from Morehouse College and Atlanta’s Grady High School recently spent class time together immersed in the works of the College’s most famous alum.

The Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 meeting at Morehouse was part of the the program known as “The Civic Engagement Project.” The outreach gives students an opportunity to explore the legacy and writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’48 and discuss how his message applies to America’s volatile political and social climate today.

The Morehouse-Grady collaboration is part of Project Pericles, a non-profit group of liberal arts colleges and universities, which work to make social responsibility and participatory citizenship a key component of their undergraduate curriculum, in the classroom, on campus, and in the community. 

“The goal is for the students to engage with some of the most critical ideas and most effective arguments in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work.,” said Michael Janis, an associate professor of English at Morehouse who worked with Grady English teacher Larry McCurdy to organize the event. “It’s a great opportunity to work in the community.”

McCurdy, who accompanied 17 students and two other faculty members on the trip, said King's speeches "are timeless and totally relevant to so many things today. “He’s so universal in his idea of social change and taking the high road amid dissent and hate," McCurdy added. "It’s so relevant to our national zeitgeist.”

Eight students from Janis’ advanced classes in English composition led the Grady students in discussions on King’s “The Time For Freedom Has Come,” an article that originally appeared in The New York Times Magazine in September 1961.

To underscore King’s message, the group visited the King Collection where they got a rare glimpse into how King composed his speeches. The civil rights leader relied heavily on outlines and continual rewrites until he was satisfied with the final draft. The group also got to see, among other things, a Western Union telegram sent to King from Muslim minister and human rights activist Malcolm X in June 1964.

Dr. Vicki Crawford, Morehouse's director of the King Collection, gave a presentation on the importance of preserving the artifacts for generations to experience. The King

Collection is in the Robert W. Woodruff Library at the Atlanta University Center.

Grady senior Shamaria Dill, 17, said her favorite part of the visit to Morehouse was seeing King’s original hand-written speeches because it “showed his thought process.” Dill, who wants to be a detective in law enforcement, plans to attend Howard University.

Morehouse junior Wendell Shelby-Wallace, one of the discussion leaders during the classroom exercise, said the hoped the exercise “enlightened scholars by exposing them not only to historical text, but also past experiences, which are relatable to modern-day society’s challenges.”

McCurdy said the Civic Engagement Project also was a chance to expose his students to college life. “Some of these kids will never set foot on a college campus if it weren’t for opportunities like this,” he said.


Last Modified: October 5, 2017, 11:10 AM, by: Synera Shelton

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