North Central College - Naperville, IL

150 Moments: Martin Luther King Jr. visit to North Central College

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Martin Luther King Jr. during campus visit in 1960
Martin Luther King Jr. during campus visit in 1960

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited North Central’s campus on Nov. 21, 1960, and presented a speech titled “Stride Toward Freedom” in Pfeiffer Hall during one of the College’s regular chapel services.

King was the most important voice of the American civil rights movement. He was famous for using nonviolent resistance to overcome injustice and never tired of trying to end segregation laws. In 1964 he received the Nobel Peace Prize.

While little remains in North Central’s written records regarding King’s visit, the importance and message of his speech have been augmented over the last few years by the collection of oral histories from people who remember the event.

Rev. George St. Angelo, the College chaplain from 1955 to 1966 and class of 1943 alumnus, invited King to speak and recalls driving King from his hotel in Chicago to campus for the event.

Mike Moser, class of 1970 alumnus and former director of development/alumni giving and alumni relations, recently shared a story about meeting King years after his visit to campus. He recalled a trip to Atlanta in March 1968 as part of a spring break trip to look at civil rights changes in the South. On Sunday morning of the trip, Moser and two other students decided to attend Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King served as pastor and had preached his first sermon. They heard King preach that morning and spoke with him during the meet-and-greet following the service. King recalled his visit to Naperville nearly eight years earlier.

Some 50 years after King spoke to students in Pfeiffer Hall, North Central College invited another distinguished African American to address the campus community as the keynote speaker for Martin Luther King Week in January 2010. Dr. Cornel West—a longtime champion for racial justice, author and Princeton University professor—spoke from the same lectern and stage as King. He reminded the capacity crowd, “King was motivated by love, and it’s what made King so exemplary, what changed the course of the country and what ultimately claimed his life.”

Born Jan. 15, 1929, King died April 4, 1968, from an assassin’s bullet at age 39.

Photo: King during luncheon Nov. 21 in the College’s Student Union, now Harold and Eva White Activities Center.