‘It was an extraordinary speech’: the day I met Martin Luther King

By Hannah Booth

Nick Nicholson meets the civil rights leader at Newcastle University, November 1967

Fifty years ago, on 13 November 1967, Newcastle University awarded an honorary degree to Martin Luther King. It was the only UK university to do so in his lifetime, and the speech he made that day is the last time he spoke outside the US before he was assassinated five months later.

Newcastle was seen as a modern institution, having broken away from Durham in 1963. I was president of the student council and, along with a dozen other students, met King for coffee an hour before the ceremony. We were wearing our best (and only) suits; we must have seemed very English and conservative. I am from a working-class family and was the first to go to university: it was such an honour to meet him. This photograph appeared widely in Newcastle at the time – the others pictured were presidents of various student associations.

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