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Martin Luther King Honorary Degree Ceremony

Martin Luther King Honorary degree

On 13 November 1967, Newcastle University gave Dr Martin Luther King an honorary degree; the only UK university to do so during his lifetime.

Important moment in our history

The day the inspirational campaigner was made an Honorary Doctor of Civil Law remains one of the most important moments in the University's history.

Special visit

The occasion was made all the more remarkable by the fact that Dr King took time to visit the University to receive the award.

He was only in the UK for 24 hours during a frenetic schedule of commitments. This included campaigning for Carl Stokes in his successful bid to become the first black mayor of Cleveland, Ohio.

At the ceremony, held in King's Hall, Dr King received his degree from His Grace the Duke of Northumberland, who was at that time the University's Chancellor.

Acceptance speech

Unusually, Dr King was then invited to give an acceptance speech, he held the audience spellbound as he spoke of his struggle for racial justice.

To read the full transcript of Transcript of Dr Martin Luther King Jr speech please click here (PDF: 47 KB).


Barely five months later, the University found itself organising a memorial service following Dr King's assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, on 4 April 1968.

Martin Luther King receiving his Honorary degree from His Grace the Duke of Northumberland.

BBC Radio

BBC Radio produced a programme about Dr Martin Luther King’s honorary degree speech. They presented the film in America to broadcasters, politicians, preachers, journalists, local people and schoolchildren.

Listen to their reaction to this wonderful speech.

Martin Luther King receiving his degree from His Grace the Duke of Northumberland.
Martin Luther King signing for his Honorary degree