FROM THE ARCHIVES: MLK Jr., Cesar Chavez and more important speakers in Sac State’s history

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech about racial inequality in front of approximately
7,000 students at Sacramento State College, now named Sacramento State, on Oct. 16, 1967.

File Photo - The State Hornet

Civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech about racial inequality in front of approximately 7,000 students at Sacramento State College, now named Sacramento State, on Oct. 16, 1967.

Dr. King

Martin Luther King Jr. visited Sacramento State in October 1967, where 7,000 students gathered in the football stadium to hear the words of the most influential man in the history of the Civil Rights movement.

The Georgia native is historically known for dedicating his life to the fight against racism through protests, arrests, sit-ins and speeches. King used nonviolent efforts to encourage black people of the South to push back against Jim Crows laws that were rampant in the region at the time.  

King traveled all over America giving speeches and leading marches, such as his famous “I Have a Dream” speech given in the 1963 March on Washington.

His efforts brought about change in 1964 when Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing racial segregation in publicly owned facilities. This law also called for the equal treatment of black people.

After an introduction by former Senator Mervyn F. Dymally, King went on to speak about the future of the Civil Rights movement.

King spoke on the feelings of inferiority among black people and how their role as slaves drove them to losing faith in themselves due to the color of their skin. He also touched on the struggles of black “negro” children in their segregated, overcrowded schools.

“It is a tragic and daily reminder that we have a long way to go,” King said.

Six months later on April 4, 1968 King was assassinated after being shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.


Larry Johnson – The State Hornet
“WE ALL KNOW WHO THEY WILL VOTE FOR,” says Cesar Chavez during a voter registration and Kennedy-support rally held yesterday on the quad. Approximately 250 people heard Chavez, State Senator Mervyn Dymally and Student Body President Jan Eakes speak in support of Sen. Robert Kennedy.

Cesar Chavez

Labor leader and Civil Rights activist Cesar Chavez was a frequent speaker on campus during the Delano Farm Workers strike from 1965 until 1970, making it the longest strike in California history.

Chavez would speak on campus during days when the workers were taking action at the state capitol to interact with students, registering students to vote and campaigning for Senator Robert Kennedy in 1968.  


T.J. Salsman – The State Hornet

Bill and Hillary Clinton

During Bill Clinton’s campaign for president in 1992, Hillary Clinton stopped at Sac State to stump to a crowd of around 300 people, where she talked about the then-governor’s plans for tuition aid relief.

Bill repaid the favor 24 years later for Hillary’s presidential campaign in 2016. Among other topics such as LGBTQ discrimination and immigration reform, the former president talked about student loans.

“A college loan is the only loan in the United States you cannot refinance when the interest rates go down, and that is wrong,” Bill said, mirroring his wife’s speech decades before.

RELATED: Bill Clinton speaks at Sacramento State to rally support for Hillary’s presidential bid


David Olson – State Hornet
Candidates battle in recall debate’s first hour:Republican Candidates Arnold Schwarzenegger and Tom McClintock chat beore Wednesday’s Govenor’s debate at Sacramento State.

Recall Election debate

In 2003 California politics were thrown into upheaval by the recall election of Governor Gray Davis. Sac State hosted a debate that invited the top six of the 135 candidates. Arguments ranged from state finances, taxation and personal jabs between celebrity candidates Arianna Huffington and Arnold Schwarzenegger.


Michael Brown Sr.

Michael Brown Jr. was an 18-year-old black man who was shot and killed in Ferguson, Missouri by a white police officer in August 2014. Brown was unarmed at the time of shooting.

The death of Brown Jr. and ensuing city protests made national headlines bringing attention to the topic of excessive force used by police officers against unarmed people of color.

After the grand jury decision was made not to indict Darren Wilson, the officer who killed Brown Jr., violet riots were set off in Ferguson after a wave of anger washed over the city.

Two years later, his father Michael Brown Sr. visited Sac State to share the horrific recollection of the day his son was killed.

“I stopped believing in God. I blamed everybody, everything, including myself. I was enraged quite a bit. My mother was Christian. She’d kill me if she heard me say something like that,” Brown said. “But I keep the faith in him, brother. That’s why I’m here, able to speak. So, turning the hate into a positive thing, here I am by the grace of God.”

RELATED: Michael Brown Sr. speaks to crowded University Union Ballroom


Cornel West

Sacramento native Cornel West spoke to an overcrowded University Union Ballroom on Sept. 29, 2016.

West is a prominent philosopher, professor, political activist, author and public intellectual who has taught at Ivy League schools such as Yale, Harvard and Princeton. With 20 published books on topics such as race and politics, West has become a major figurehead in the world of political and social activism.

A packed house of nearly 3,000 came to Sac State to hear West speak, forcing people outside the building onto the lawn of Serna Plaza to view the video on a live stream.

RELATED: Cornel West comes home to speak to an overcapacity crowd at Sac State


Ken Jennings

Game show champion Ken Jennings made a visit to Sacramento State on April 15 in 2009 to answer questions and compete in a “Jeopardy” style competition with a Sac State faculty member and then College Bowl Champion.

Jennings made national headlines when he became the highest winning contestant on the game show “Jeopardy,” raking in a whopping $2.5 million after a 74-game win streak.

Jennings and the unnamed professor competed in a question and answer style portion that took place before the main competition.

RELATED: No. 1 Jeopardy winner to visit Sac State