This past Monday Minnesota State University, Mankato partnered up with the Mankato community to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr. Day by featuring a documentary about MLK along with a panel of those interviewed in the film.
The documentary followed civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr. and his journey to Mankato in November of 1961.
“The documentary uses the historical visit of Martin Luther King Jr. to Mankato as a way to honor his anti-racist activism as well as to point out his work is not complete and must continue,” Jameel Haque, Associate Professor and Director of the Kessel Peace Institute at MSU said.
MLK gave a speech at what is now Mankato West High School’s auditorium on a cold November day as the documentary interviewed a Mankato local who was in attendance.
She painted a picture of how packed the room he spoke in was since there were so many who came.
Expressed in the film they shared that back in 1961, the Mankato community was a predominantly white farming town.
Following the documentary there was also a panel in which those who were interviewed in the film were able to share their thoughts about MLK Day as well as the impact of his visit.
Christopher Brown, Ph.D. and Acting Dean of the College of Arts & Humanities, shared his view on Mankato’s progress.
“Looking at the visual dynamics, there certainly have been areas of progress, but then again I’m sure he would challenge us to rethink how we understand that narrative of progress as it relates to the Mankato community,” shared Brown.
In many ways MLK Day has been used to talk about the reality of our present as well as the persistence of continuing to stop systemic racism and white supremacy.
Dr. Henry Morris, Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion at MSU shared, “I am a fan of Martin Luther King, but the movement was bigger than him. There were lots of people who were leading the movement all over the place including many women and I think the women were the backbone of the civil rights movement.”
MLK was one of many known figures of the civil rights movement.
“He was a symbol of that time, but I never want us to forget that there were many others who strived to make this a better place who were supporters and had leadership roles,” said Morris.
With the themes of change and call to action, many educators of the Mankato community express their role and influence.
“We need to teach the history and teach it accurately and make people uncomfortable and do the hard work,” Dr. Angela Cooley, Associate Professor of History at MSU
In the coming months when the ground is warmer, a monument honoring MLK is planned to be unveiled at Mankato West High School where he spoke.
Header Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday that honors one of the predominant figures of the Civil Rights movement. This memorial of MLK is located in Washington D.C. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)