University Statements

Jan. 12, 2023

Dear Members of the Binghamton University Community,

Every year, Binghamton University joins with millions of Americans to honor the life and work of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, architect of the nonviolent civil rights movement and the Poor People’s Campaign, King dedicated his life to the pursuit of democratic principles, equality and social justice.

However, King knew equality was not achievable without equal access to voting. “So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote,” he said, “I do not possess myself.” So, in January 1965, he spearheaded a campaign of civil disobedience designed to focus attention on the disenfranchisement — including intimidation and harassment — of Black voters in the South. The peaceful demonstrations that followed led to the arrests of thousands, including King.

In March of that year, a group of voting rights activists led by a then 25-year-old John Lewis encountered a battalion of state troopers and local law enforcement outside of Selma, Alabama, while on route to the state capital. The 600 non-violent marchers were brutally assaulted with clubs and tear gas when they refused to turn back. Images and footage captured by national news outlets shocked the nation, sparking sympathetic protests and emboldening the call for voting rights legislation.

On Aug. 6, 1965, with Selma’s “Bloody Sunday” march still fresh in the minds of Americans and under pressure of King’s moral leadership, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. The new law banned racially discriminatory voting practices, including poll taxes and arbitrarily enforced literacy tests.

King understood that the right to vote was a fundamental underpinning of a free and equal society. As we celebrate King’s enduring legacy, we must also recommit ourselves to this constitutional guarantee that is shared equally by all citizens. It’s what Dr. King would ask of us if he were here today.

Sincerely,

Harvey G. Stenger
President

Karen A. Jones
Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion