Martin Luther King Jr.

King calls Cal students “the conscience of our nation”

“America has brought the nation and the world to an awe-inspiring threshold of the future … And yet we have not learned the simple art of walking the earth as brothers and sisters.”

So said Martin Luther King Jr. on May 17, 1967, as the Vietnam War raged and our campus seethed. He spoke on the steps of Sproul Hall before a rapt crowd of more than 7,000 people. The minister and civil rights leader told students, ”You, in a real sense, have been the conscience of the academic community and our nation.”

Berkeley’s student union was renamed after King in 1985, after petitioning by the late Ronnie Stevenson, an early Black Panther Party member, Berkeley alum, and staff member. A historic photograph of King taken by the late Helen Nestor hangs in the building.   

“It was a warm and special feeling to photograph him,” said Nestor, who was allowed to photograph King at close range because of her disability. “The students were very charged up and very much with Dr. King.”

Listen to King's 1967 speech at UC Berkeley.

Explore Other Stories

Chang-Lin Tien addresses the crowd on Charter Day.

Chancellor Chang-Lin Tien: An unabashed cheerleader for Cal

In a Twitter thread sharing memories of Chang-Lin Tien, Berkeley’s chancellor from 1990-97, one person recalled him passing out cookies in the library and exhorting, “Study hard! Go, Bears!” Another remembers students mobbing him as he walked across campus — “like something out of A Hard Day’s Night” — and Tien always made time to shake hands or give hugs.

Japanese Americans receiving honorary degrees from Berkeley

Commencement: A special day Cal students deserve

After years of hard work and personal growth, graduating from college can bring a mix of emotions, from pride and nostalgia to fear and excitement about what lies ahead. It also brings a special day when, at Berkeley, some 5,000 graduates and over 40,000 guests gather for a formal procession, speeches, performances, and more to mark this momentous occasion. 

Barry C. Barish '57, Ph.D. '63

Alumnus of the Year proves Einstein was right

Barry C. Barish ’57, Ph.D. ’63 says watching ocean waves marked the start of his work on detecting gravitational waves a century after Einstein’s prediction. His research would win him the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics, which he shares, as well as Berkeley’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year.

Strawberry Creek, UC Berkeley campus

Around the Bend, Strawberry Creek

A poem written and performed by José L. Rodríguez Nodal, a long-time staff member with deep family ties to UC Berkeley, for the university’s 150th birthday on March 23, 2018

The Big C on Charter Hill

Give me a (concrete) C!

On our rugged eastern foothills,
Stands our symbol clear and bold, 
Big C means to fight and strive
And win for blue and gold.

— Excerpt from the song “Big C,” written in 1913 by Harold P. Williams and N. Loyall McLaren

Lillian Gilbreth

Lillian Gilbreth: A master of human behavior and engineering

By today’s standards, Lillian Gilbreth 1900, M.A. 1902 was a superwoman. She studied literature at Berkeley in anticipation of becoming a teacher — and was the first woman to speak at a commencement ceremony — but her path took a dramatic turn. In 1915, she earned a Ph.D.