Duke's MLK Event To Mark 50 Years of Black Students

The Rev. William Turner, one of the university's early black students, will deliver keynote address

The Rev. William C. Turner, a member of one of the earliest classes at Duke University to include African-American students, will deliver the keynote address during the school's annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration Sunday, Jan. 20. 

This year's theme, "Praise, Protest & Power: 50 Years in the Making," complements the 50th anniversary of Duke's first black undergraduate students, a nine-month, university-wide commemoration. 

Turner's 3 p.m. speech in Duke Chapel is part of a program that includes remarks from local and university officials, prayer and music and dance performances. It is free and open to the public. Parking is available in the Bryan Center Parking Garage.

Those unable to attend can watch a live stream of the event on the university's Ustream channel, ustream.tv/dukeuniversity. Viewers can post comments on Twitter using the hashtag #Duke50th. An archive of the recording will also be posted online.

Turner is a professor of homiletics at Duke Divinity School as well as the pastor of Durham's Mt. Level Missionary Baptist Church. He was the first to integrate Duke's football team as a walk-on player, receiving his bachelor of science degree in electrical engineering degree in 1971. He also received a master of divinity degree in 1974 and a doctorate in religion in 1984, both from Duke.

Turner has spent his academic and much of his professional career at Duke, serving the university as assistant provost and dean of black affairs, acting director of the African and African American Studies Department and director of black church affairs. Over the years, Turner has helped recruit an increasingly diverse student body.

At the chapel, Turner will discuss how the inclusion of African-American students transformed Duke from a "good regional college" into a "world-class" university, opening doors for other minority groups to enter.

"On the occasion of our annual Dr. Martin L. King Jr. commemoration and the special recognition of the 50th anniversary of the first African-American undergraduates enrolled at this university, it's most fitting that a champion for justice like Rev. Turner is delivering this year's address. He has contributed so very much to the transformation of Duke over the decades," said Ben Reese, co-chair of Duke's MLK Committee.

"As Dr. King said in his 1964 address at Duke, it takes 'the tireless efforts and persistent work of dedicated individuals who are willing to be co-workers with God.' Rev. Turner is one of those individuals."

Duke will not hold classes on Monday, Jan. 21, in observance of the holiday.

On Friday, Jan. 25, the campus community will gather at the Nasher Museum of Art for a reception to officially kick off the nine-month celebration highlighting the contributions of the African-American community -- students, alumni, faculty and staff. The three surviving members of the first class of black undergraduate students will attend. The 7 p.m. event is free and open to the public but registration is required. To register, visit http://bit.ly/50thNasher.

Other campus events, which are all free and open to the public, include:

-- 7 p.m. Jan. 17, Bay 4, Smith Warehouse: A reception and screening of the film "Banished: American Ethnic Cleansings," directed by Marco Williams. A Q&A with Williams, Duke historian William Chafe and director of the Pauli Murray Project Barbara Lau will follow;  

-- 6:30 p.m. Jan. 18, Richard White Auditorium, East Campus: Film screening of "Soundtrack for a Revolution," featuring performances by John Legend, Wyclef Jean, The Roots and others. Director Dan Sturman will take audience questions;  

-- 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Jan. 21, Duke School of Nursing Intramural Building (208 Wannamaker Dr.): Members from Duke, North Carolina Central University and the Durham community will package 80,000 meals for the Million Meals Project, to support Stop Hunger Now. Volunteers are encouraged to bring a canned food donation to support the efforts of the Durham Branch of the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina. Registration required, http://tinyurl.com/MLKMillionMeals

-- 1 p.m. Jan. 24, Duke School of Nursing Christine Siegler Pearson Building: The program, "A Dream Yet Fulfilled: Addressing Health Disparities Domestic and Abroad," will feature a series of lectures on health disparities concluding with a 4:30 p.m. keynote address by David Satcher, the former U.S. Surgeon General. Registration required, http://tinyurl.com/SONsatcher.

For more details about this year's commemoration, go to mlk.duke.edu.  You can watch the event streamed live online below: