The University of Chicago News Office
Jan. 3, 2005 Press Contact: Josh Schonwald
(773) 702-6421

Kweisi Mfume anchors a weeklong celebration of Martin Luther King

Kweisi Mfume
Kweisi Mfume is the keynote speaker for the University’s week of events scheduled to observe Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The weeklong celebration begins Monday, Jan. 10, and culminates on the King holiday Monday, Jan. 17, with Mfume’s speech.
Enlarge this image.

Other Resources:
For more information, please visit:

Kweisi Mfume, the former president of the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization, will headline this year’s University of Chicago commemoration of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a weeklong celebration that is shaping up to be the largest in University history.

Mfume, 56, took over the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1996, and is credited with raising standards and expectations of the civil rights organization and providing it with a clear blueprint for its future. His resignation from the organization after nine years of service became effective Saturday, Jan. 1, though he will continue to serve as a consultant to the NAACP until July. The Rev. Jesse Jackson has hailed Mfume for bringing stability to the organization and for leaving it “stronger than he found it.” Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has called Mfume “a distinguished leader who champions the rights of all Americans.”

A Baltimore native, Mfume entered public service in 1979, winning a seat on the Baltimore city council by three votes. He held that seat for three years, leading efforts to diversify city government, improve community safety and enhance minority business development. With that success, Mfume went on to easily win a seat in Congress in 1986. As a congressman, Mfume advocated landmark minority business and civil rights legislation, and he sponsored legislative initiatives banning assault weapons. Mfume served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, and later as the Caucus’ chair of the Task Force on Affirmative Action. He left Congress in 1996 when he was appointed president of the NAACP, where he helped usher in a new generation for civil rights advocacy.

In addition to his career in politics and at the NAACP, Mfume worked for 13 years in broadcasting, and for nine years he hosted the television show The Bottom Line. His best-selling autobiography is entitled No Free Ride.

Mfume will speak on the theme of this year’s King celebration, “Living the Legacy.” While Mfume’s speech is the keynote address of the week, this year’s commemoration includes events that examine and celebrate King’s message in a variety of formats and perspectives. The following is a list of the week’s events. All are free and open to the public. For more information on any of them, visit

  • Monday, Jan. 10 — 7 to 9 p.m. in the Biological Sciences Learning Center, 924 E. 57th St.
    A Different Perspective: Challenging the Myths of the Civil Rights Movement

    The evening will begin with a screening of the critically acclaimed documentary film Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin. The film chronicles the life of this influential activist, especially his role in organizing the 1963 March on Washington and his experience being marginalized within the movement for being openly gay. The film will be followed by a discussion led by Jacqueline Stewart, Associate Professor in English Language & Literature.

  • Tuesday, Jan. 11 — noon to 1 p.m. in the Amandla Student Resource Center, Harper Memorial Library, east mezzanine level, 1116 E. 59th St.
    Rockefeller Memorial Chapel Presents: What Matters to Me and Why

    Alumnus Roderick Pugh will discuss what it was like to be in Hyde Park during the civil rights era. A long-time resident of Hyde Park, Pugh earned his Ph.D. in Psychology from Chicago in 1949.

  • Wednesday, Jan. 12 — 6 to 8 p.m. in the International House, 1414 E. 59th St.
    Realizing the Dream: Perspectives on Equality and Civil Rights

    Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Assistant Professor in Political Science and the College, will moderate a panel discussion on how King’s message of equality influences other groups struggling for equality, such as women, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and gays and lesbians.

  • Thursday, Jan. 13 — 6 to 8 p.m. at the Alumni House, 5555 S. Woodlawn Ave.
    Multicultural Student and Alumni Mixer

    Danielle Allen, Dean of the Division of the Humanities and Professor in Classical Languages & Literatures, will offer a reading from her new book, Talking to Strangers: Anxieties of Citizenship since Brown v. Board of Education. She also will be on hand for a book signing.

  • Friday, Jan. 14 — 7 to 9:30 p.m. in Uncle Joe’s Coffee Shop, second floor of the Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University Ave.
    Roots and Rhymes

    This evening of poetry brings together artists from the greater Chicago community, including Anida Esguerra, Cin Salach and Avery Young, and members of the University community for a night of artistic expression that addresses the cross-cultural significance of King’s legacy. Open mic will follow the featured guests, and all in attendance will be encouraged to perform.

  • Saturday, Jan. 15 — 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
    Day of Service

    The University Community Service Center sponsors a day of service titled “Faith and the Community.” There are various locations and activities. For more information or to get involved, please e-mail

  • Sunday, Jan. 16 — 3 to 5 p.m. in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.
    Gospel Fest

    Join in the jubilation as community and campus choirs uplift and educate. Learn about the roots of gospel music, its place in African-American history and its role in civil rights politics.

  • Monday, Jan. 17 — noon to 1 p.m. in Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, 5850 S. Woodlawn Ave.
    Martin Luther King Jr. Day Service and Reception

    Join Mfume as he speaks about King’s legacy, and then attend a reception with him from 1 to 3 p.m. in Ida Noyes Hall, 1212 E. 59th St.
Last modified at 11:11 AM CST on Thursday, January 06, 2005.

University of Chicago News Office
5801 South Ellis Avenue - Room 200
Chicago, Illinois 60637-1473
(773) 702-8360
Fax: (773) 702-8324
Contact Us