Talk by Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and CEO, highlights Yale’s King holiday celebration

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The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is pictured at Yale University, where he received an honorary LL.D degree at the university's 263rd commencement on June 15, 1964.

Click here to watch the livestream of the talk by NAACP president and CEO Cornell William Brooks on Jan. 20 at 5:30 p.m.

The Yale community’s commemorations of the life and legacy of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. ’64 Hon. LL.D. will include a keynote address by Cornell William Brooks ’90 J.D. on 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 20 at Battell Chapel, corner of Elm and College Streets. Doors for the event will open at 5 p.m.

Brooks is the president and chief executive officer of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), known as “the nation’s oldest, largest and most widely recognized grassroots-based civil rights organization.” Founded in 1909, the organization works “to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.”

The address on Jan. 20 will be a homecoming for alumnus Brooks — not only to campus but also to the pulpit in the historic Battell Chapel. He last spoke there as a student in the Yale Law School, when he gave a sermon for a worship service marking the King holiday more than two decades ago. A graduate also of Jackson State University and Boston University School of Theology, Brooks is a fourth-generation minister in the A.M.E. Church as well as a civil rights litigator and social justice advocate.

The NAACP president was last on campus in April 2015 to speak with students at the Law School. He was featured recently in a cover story in the Yale Alumni Magazine, which noted that Brooks’ appointment as the organization’s 18th president just over a year ago comes “at a particularly potent time in supposedly post-racial America.”

Cornell William Brooks

The setting for the keynote also ties directly to the legacy of King, who spoke from the same pulpit on Jan. 14, 1962 at the invitation of University Chaplain William Sloane Coffin. King had spoken previously at Yale on Jan. 14, 1959 in Woolsey Hall, at the invitation of the Undergraduate Lecture Committee. King’s third and final visit to campus came in June 1964, when he was awarded an honorary degree from Yale.

Some of those visits by King and a later visit by Coretta Scott King, then his widow, in 1969 will be remembered in a special exhibition in the nave of Sterling Memorial Library from Jan. 11 to March 11. Organized by Yale Manuscripts and Archives, the exhibition will feature reproductions of records and photographs from university sources of the Kings’ visits to Yale.

Brooks’ keynote on Jan. 20 and the library exhibition are but two of a series of events on the theme “The Work Continues: Making Black Dreams Matter” that will take place on campus around the time of the federal King Holiday on Monday, Jan. 18.

Other key events include the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History’s 20th annual celebration of King and his legacy of environmental and social justice. The museum’s celebration takes place on Sunday, Jan. 17, noon to 4:00 p.m., and Monday, Jan. 18, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Further information and detailed schedules for the celebration can be found online at the Yale Peabody Museum website.

On Friday, Jan. 15: Shiloh Missionary Baptist, 100 Lawrence St., will hold its 46thAnnual “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Love March” beginning at 10:45 a.m. The church, pastored by the Reverend Kennedy D. Hampton Sr. ’09 M.Div., has held a celebration on King’s actual birthday every year since 1970.

The Yale School of Art’s gallery at 32 Edgewood St. will feature an exhibition titled “Black Pulp!” from Jan. 19 to March 11. Curated by artists William Villalongo and Mark Thomas Gibson  ’13 M.F.A., the show features rare print media, comics, and contemporary art from the Black Diaspora showcasing the creative use of highly disseminated media to leverage limited notions of black subjectivity and humanity.

The curators describe Black Pulp! as “an unprecedented overview of over 90 years of black image production by black publishers, black artists and by non-black artists and publishers allied with foregrounding the black experience. Many works on view offer up windows into the darker, erotic, satirical, and more absurd recesses of the black popular imagination, while underscoring important debates around personhood and identity.”

These are just some of the many events planned throughout January on campus and in the community. Visit for a listing of events and note that the listings will continue to be updated during the course of the month.

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