USC will commemorate the life and work of Martin Luther King Jr. with several events, including a breakfast appearance by Andrew Young, a King confidante and former Atlanta mayor and UN ambassador.
Young will speak at 7:30 a.m. Jan. 14 in the University of South Carolina’s Russell House University Union ballroom. Student tickets are $5 and adult tickets are $10, available through the Koger Center for the Arts box office.
The theme for this year’s commemoration, which runs Jan. 14-18 and includes a number of campus events and community service, is “Education: The Pipeline to Equality.”
Young was a central figure during the civil rights era, working with King and others in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference to end segregation and ensure civil and voting rights for African-Americans. As SCLC director, Young worked on passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, federal legislation that became the linchpins for change in the South.
Young was present on Bloody Sunday, the Selma, Ala., march on May 7, 1965, that shook the nation when television cameras recorded the police beating and tear-gassing of demonstrators as they crossed the Edmund Pettus bridge.
Young this week weighed in on the new movie “Selma” by director Ann DuVernay, which has stirred criticism about its portrayal of President Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson family members and former Johnson aides are furious that Johnson, who had pushed through the 1964 Civil Rights Act, is portrayed as reluctant to back voting rights legislation.
“We could not have had this bill without Lyndon Baines Johnson, but Lyndon Baines Johnson could not have passed it without Martin Luther King” and the sacrifices of many others, including those who died during the movement, Young told MSNBC. “It’s unfair for anybody to talk about credit. Too many people gave their lives. Too many people risked too much.”
Historians note that Johnson, incensed by the actions of police on Bloody Sunday, submitted voting rights legislation to Congress on March 17, days before a march was finally completed from Selma to Montgomery. Johnson also federalized members of the Alabama National Guard to protect the demonstrators along the route.
“President Johnson did not say that it had to wait. He said that I have a great agenda and I just got through (passing the civil rights bill),” Young told MSNBC. “Remember, this was December and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 had just passed in July and this was coming six months after.
“We did not expect him to commit but we were just kind of letting him know that we had to pursue voting rights,” Young noted. “His agenda I found later, was that he thought the Great Society – Medicare, Title 1, aid to the disadvantaged – would be easier for him to bring first.”
The same day of Young’s appearance, the USC Law School will host a 6 p.m. forum, “And Justice for All,” which will feature state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jean Toal; Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin; state Sen. John Scott, D-Richland; 5th Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson; and USC law professor Seth Stroughton.
The forum in the USC Law School Auditorium is free and open to the public.
The campus commemoration will conclude Jan. 18 with the annual MLK Gospel Fest at the Koger Center for the Arts. The 6 p.m. performance will include Men of Praise; the Rev. Matthew Mickens and the Highway Travelers; and Flossie Boyd Johnson and Favor. Tickets are $10 and available at the Koger Center box office: www.kogercenterforthearts.com.