Friend of MLK Jr. Speaks During Black History Month

By: Alice Zalan

On February 24, Ethnic Studies teacher Risha Krishna’s students spent their fourth period in the A-Wing cafeteria, listening to Dr. Clayborne Carson. Carson is a History Professor at Stanford University and the Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He was invited to come speak to the students about his experience with MLK and about Black History Month, which took place in February.

Carson has a personal perspective on the history of civil rights. He participated in the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, the peaceful protest organized by MLK to promote civil rights and economic equality for African Americans. Although Carson was only nineteen, he wanted to make a difference. In 1985, Carson was selected by Coretta Scott King, MLK’s wife, to fine-tune and publish her husband’s papers. The result was The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr, a 14-volume tome that contains 39 years of writings. Known as the Kings Paper Project it is incorporated into the MLK Research and Institute Center’s program, which “…provides an institutional home for a broad range of activities illuminating the Nobel Peace laureate’s [MLK] life and the movements he inspired.” Currently, Carson divides his time between studying the workings and thoughts of MLK and lecturing around the world.

In 2005, Carson organized the play, “Passages of Martin Luther King,” to be presented at the Beijing Oriental Pioneer Theatre. Originally created in 1993, this updated version includes African American gospel singers and Chinese actors. The play consists of scenes showing MLK’s thoughts on violence and discrimination.
Carson has travelled extensively, and recently went to India. There, he worked at a private school where he encouraged the children to help those less fortunate than themselves. Carson implemented a program in which impoverished children had the chance to improve their education and learn about nonviolent protests.
In addition to his work at Stanford and abroad, Carson has met the Dalai Lama; has written a series of books about Malcolm X, African-American history, and about the history of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee; and has collaborated with a design group in San Francisco to create the winning proposal for the MLK memorial in Washington D.C.

After the presentation, Krishna said, “I think any time you have a prominent guest speaker come into the classroom it validates the teacher’s voice, historical events and makes the history more real for the students. Educational research shows that this is a form of microteaching. They are another voice to drive home the importance of certain events. [Carson] has spent his lifetime researching the civil rights movement and his knowledge base is something valuable to share with the students.”

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