On 13 November 1967, the African American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, received an Honorary Doctorate in Civil Law from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne – the only institution in the UK to honour him in this way. In an impromptu speech after the award ceremony, King spoke eloquently of the ‘three urgent and indeed great problems what we face not only in the United States of America, but all over the world today...The problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war.’ Although King spent less than 24 hours in the city, he was extremely grateful for this international endorsement of his efforts at a time when he was under intense scrutiny and criticism at home. In a letter of thanks to the University, he explained that the award ‘is a tremendous encouragement, far overshadowing the barbs and arrows of the daily press’. Following King’s assassination on 4 April 1968, a memorial service was held at St. Thomas Church in the Haymarket. Academic conferences and public events to mark King’s visit were held in 1993 and 1998, while in Spring 2015 the Discovery and Great North Museums hosted a ‘Journey to Justice’ exhibit celebrating King’s legacy and broader connections between the US civil rights movement and Newcastle.
Brian Ward, “A King in Newcastle: Martin Luther King Jr. and British Race Relations, 1967-1968,” Georgia Historical Quarterly, LXXIX, 3, (Fall 1995), pp. 599-632; Brian Ward and Tony Badger (eds), The Making of Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement (1996); Stephen Tuck, “Malcolm X's Visit to Oxford University: U.S. Civil Rights, Black Britain, and the Special Relationship on Race.” American Historical Review,118 (2013), pp. 76-103.