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Martin Luther King in Newcastle

Martin Luther King in Newcastle: Improved Understanding and Engagement with the Commemoration of Regional Diversity, BAME History, and Social Justice Traditions

Researchers: Professor Brian Ward

In 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. received an Honorary Doctorate from Newcastle University where he delivered a powerful impromptu speech concerning the global civil-rights struggle. This event and King’s words were lost to public memory for decades until Professor Brian Ward’s archival research enabled the episode, and the speech, to inform urgent contemporary debates about social inclusion, national/regional identity, and immigration. The research became the foundation for Freedom City 2017, a major commemorative festival that brought together 100,000 people across Tyneside and improved public awareness of the region’s cultural heritage. The research directly informed the work of organisations: it enabled Journey to Justice to expand from a Newcastle-based pilot to social justice projects in UK 14 cities with approximately 170,000 people visiting its exhibition and educational events; and Northern Roots (creative arts charity) secured over GBP 1,000,000 in funding to support their outreach work with displaced communities.

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