Student union honors its namesake



Charles Henry, chair of African American Studies, center, greets a former student and current staff member, Ronald Stevenson, who led the effort in the mid-1980s to rename the student union building in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Photographer Helen Nestor and Free Speech Movement Café curator Harold Adler look on.
Noah Berger photo

05 June 2002 | A historic photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaking out against the Vietnam War on the steps of Sproul Hall 35 years ago, came home May 17 to the student union named in his honor.

The 24-by-36-inch black-and-white framed photograph, taken on May 17, 1967 by Helen Nestor, will hang in the main stairwell of the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union leading up to Pauley Ballroom.

Nestor, who took the photograph three-and-a-half decades ago, watched as incoming student body president Jesse Gabriel accepted the photo, a gift from the Department of African American Studies.

“We are very honored to have this photograph,” said Gabriel, a junior economics major, in accepting the gift on behalf of the ASUC.

Nestor, who has polio and was allowed to photograph Dr. King at closer range than other photographers because of her disability, recalled the tumult of that time on the Berkeley campus. “It was a warm and special feeling to photograph him. The students were very charged up and very much with Dr. King. It was a special time.”

During his 1967 speech on the steps of Sproul Hall, Dr. King told students: “You, in a real sense, have been the conscience of the academic community and our nation.” A gold plaque bearing that quote, along with King’s name, will hang with the photograph.

Until recently, the only image of King in the student union was a rendering on cardboard tacked to a bulletin board, Henry added. When Free Speech Movement Café curator Harold Adler saw this, he knew something needed to be done.

Adler, co-curator of a book and exhibit about the social protest movements in the 1960s and ‘70s, had the one and only copy of Nestor’s photograph. He showed it to Henry, who arranged to have the African American Studies Department purchase a copy to present to students.


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