One, four, and nine who made a difference


In 2010 we celebrate our 30th year at Michigan State University commemorating the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. With the nation we also observe the 50th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-in, a pivotal moment in the civil rights struggle.

This year’s theme, “The Message, Our History, Our Future,” describes our embrace of past celebrations and milestones and our dedication to applying Dr. King’s legacy and mission to our endeavors going forward.

We also recall that those young protesters sitting down at a North Carolina five-and-dime lunch counter in 1960 were four students from a fellow land-grant institution, the Agricultural and Technical College of North Carolina. In that moment their engagement mobilized a movement, and in four days four grew to 300––a meaningful number to Spartans!

Their courageous, nonviolent example led to other such protests around the country and finally to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which required desegregation of public accommodations.

And let us not forget another brave group that opened doors to African Americans in those tumultuous years—the Little Rock Nine. Three years earlier, those young people faced down the armed might of a segregationist state government and hostility in and out of school to exercise their right to an equal education. And we’re proud to recall that two of them––Ernest Green and Carlotta Walls Lanier––went on to attend at Michigan State.

Access is a pillar of Michigan State’s own mission, and inclusiveness is one of our three core values—one that gives power to our other core values of quality and connection. Diversity is a source of strength, and thanks to the likes of Dr. King and the Greensboro and Little Rock students, we are far richer as an institution and a community because of it.

We take great pride in our diversity here at Michigan State. Valuing inclusion means providing all who live, learn, and work at the university the opportunity to actively participate in a vibrant, intellectual community that offers a broad range of ideas and perspectives.

To fully benefit from our community’s diversity, we must embrace the opportunity to learn from each other. We welcome a full spectrum of experiences, viewpoints, and intellectual approaches to enrich our conversation and challenge us all to grow and to broaden our ways of thinking.


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