Springfield College Hosts 11th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture | Springfield College

Springfield College Hosts 11th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture

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At left, Mark Updegrove, Martin Dobrow, Robyn C. Spencer-Antoine, and Calvin Hill.


By: Damon Markiewicz

Nationally prominent historians Mark Updegrove and Robyn C. Spencer-Antoine were guest speakers at this year's Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture on March 5, 2024.  This 11th annual event was hosted by the Springfield College Division of Inclusion and Community Engagement, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr. delivering the College’s commencement address on June 14, 1964.

King was at the center of one of the most memorable moments in Springfield College history, a day when at the height of his fame and the Civil Rights Movement, King addressed the Class of 1964 on Alden Street.

“The Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture has become one of the important annual traditions on our campus,” said Springfield College Vice President for Inclusion and Community Engagement Calvin Hill, who moderated this year’s event. “We annually try and find speakers who will help educate our campus community with timely topics, and this year was no different.”

This year’s event was more than just a lecture, it was a multimedia and interactive panel discussion focused on King’s relevance to today. It focused on discussions about patriotism and the state of our democracy, themes that were important in King’s life and just as important in the present time.

Nationally prominent historians Mark Updegrove and Robyn C. Spencer-Antoine were joined by Springfield College Communications/Sports Journalism Professor and civil rights scholar Martin Dobrow, who has written in-depth civil rights pieces for The Atlantic and The Washington Post.

“This is always one of the more powerful lectures during the year,” added Dobrow, who along with Hill, has been instrumental in providing many civil rights educational opportunities to Springfield College students. “Dr. King’s commencement address at Springfield College in 1964 was such an important part of the College’s history, and this lecture continues to pay homage to that historical event.”

Dobrow was instrumental in bringing both Updegrove and Spencer-Antoine to the campus. Updegrove is the president and CEO of the LBJ Foundation and presidential historian for ABC News. He is the author of five books on the presidency, including Incomparable Grace: JFK in the Presidency. Earlier in his career, he was the director of the LBJ Presidential Library and publisher of Newsweek. He has interviewed seven U.S. presidents.

Spencer-Antoine is a historian who researches and writes about Black social protest after World War II, urban and working-class radicalism, and gender. Her book, The Revolution Has Come: Black Power, Gender, and the Black Panther Party in Oakland, was published in 2016. A fellow at Harvard University’s Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, she has written for many publications, including the Journal of Women’s History and The Washington Post. She has earned awards from the Mellon Foundation and the Association of Black Women Historians.

“It was an honor and privilege to have both Updegrove and Spencer-Antoine on our campus,” said Dobrow, who was the very first Martin Luther King Jr. Lecture guest speaker in 2014 when he previewed his book that detailed the circumstances surrounding King’s commencement speech at the College. “I think we really want to energize young people and make them active agents of change in this world they are inheriting. Our democracy is a precious thing and we really want to energize students’ involvement with it.”

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards

Following the lecture, the Springfield College Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Awards were presented to an outstanding student, employee, and Springfield community member. The awards recognize those who have made a significant contribution to diversity and inclusion on campus or in the Springfield community.

Student award – Chelsea Mensah, Class of 2024
Faculty award – Elizabeth Morgan, Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs/Associate Professor of Psychology
Community award – Tracye Whitfield, Springfield Mass. City Councilor and Executive Director of the Coalition for an Equitable Economy