As part of our celebration of Black History Month, each Friday in February Special Collections & Archives will be highlighting some items from our collections that demonstrate the important contributions and influences of the black community in Southeast Missouri. For our first Friday, we’re excited to announce that video footage of the keynote address from last year’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Celebration Dinner is now available to view with our online collections.

From 1991-2005, Southeast Missouri State held a special holiday breakfast to celebrate and honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2006, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, was the keynote speaker at the first dinner Southeast hosted in his father’s honor. This dinner began a new annual tradition of influential speakers visiting our campus to speak on the legacy of Dr. King, as well as share their own unique experiences, expertise, and wisdom. Last year’s keynote address was given by political activist, professor, and author, Angela Davis.

Angela Davis

Davis has been active in political and academic spheres since the 1960s, has taught and lectured all over the world, and authored ten books. She is well-known for her advocation of racial, economic, and social justice, as well as prison reform. She is a founding member of Critical Resistance, an organization dedicated to deconstructing the prison industrial complex. Often described as a radical, throughout her life Davis has been an outspoken and passionate defender of the causes she supports.

The announcement of Davis as keynote speaker caused some controversy in the Cape Girardeau community at the time. Some people felt that her leftist political associations were at odds with the spirit of the MLK Celebration Dinner, while others thought that bringing speakers to our community with diverse perspectives could help inspire open discussions about important issues. Despite the debate, it was still a special opportunity for the community to hear from such a high-profile and historic speaker. The video of Davis’ speech can now be found in full at https://cdm16765.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p16765coll14.

Nikki Giovanni

If you are interested in viewing this year’s event, it will be held virtually on February 10 at 5pm free of charge. This year’s talk on the theme, “Speaking to the Moment: Reconciling the Dream,” will be given by poet, educator, and author Nikki Giovanni. More information on this event, as well as information on other Black History Month events and educational resources can be found at https://www.semo.edu/mlk/.

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