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Martin Luther King Jr. March

January 11, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. was not only a civil rights leader in the U.S., but a world figure on the stage of human rights. This year's celebration of his life takes a look at the other "faces of freedom," in this country, both from yesterday and today.

Monday, January 21
Old Town Square
March starts at 1 p.m.

The Colorado State University and Fort Collins communities will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day with several events on Monday, Jan. 21.

The theme of this year's celebration is "Faces of Freedom: Past, Present, Future."

King's legacy

In the late 1950s when Martin Luther King Jr. became the new leadership for the growing civil rights movement, he became the embodiment of ideals he’d learned in his Christian upbringing as well as Ghandi’s methods of protest that he carefully studied. 

Many faces of freedom

"Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a prominent face of freedom but he is not the only face of freedom," said Bridgette Johnson, director of CSU’s Black/African American Cultural Center.

"There are many everyday heroes who also represent freedom including children on the playground, teachers in the classroom, janitors cleaning the building you work in, firefighters and police officers who put their lives at risk daily and the soldiers who fight for our freedom."

Hero in her time

Marion Anderson in 1940.One of the heroes of the Civil Rights Movement who is not necessarily a household name today is Marian Anderson. Anderson was instrumental in the struggle for black artists to overcome racial prejudice in the United States.

She was an African American contralto who was one of the most celebrated singers of the twentieth century but who, early in her career, was denied access to audiences and venues in the U.S.

In Europe, African Americans did not face the same barriers and Anderson enjoyed acclaimed success there.

Einstein hosted Anderson

In the late 1930s, Anderson gave about 70 recitals a year in the U.S. and, while very famous, she was still denied rooms in certain hotels and not allowed to eat in certain restaurants.

Albert Einstein hosted her in his home on many occasions, the first time in 1937 when she was turned away from a hotel before performing at Princeton University.

White-performers-only policy

The incident that placed Anderson centerstage internationally occurred in 1939 when the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow her to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall, a concert hall in Washington D.C., due to a "white performers only" policy.

Then First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin D. Roosevelt arranged for her to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. A crowd of 75,000 and a radio audience of millions heard the concert.

Anderson continued to break barriers when she became the first black person to perform at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1955. She was present and sang at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.