Events — 28 August 2012
Scarritt Bennett Center Celebrates 1957 MKL Jr. Speech

By Harriet Vaughan

The Scarritt Bennett Center will soon mark its place in history with the commemoration of a historical marker and celebration of a speech Martin Luther King, Jr gave on the historical, Methodist-based campus more than 50 years ago.

The Metro Historic Commission has approved a marker that notes the role Scarritt College, now known as the Scarritt Bennett Center, played in supporting civil rights for African-Americans and the advancement of women’s rights. The marker will be dedicated at 10 a.m., Sept. 1 in Wightman Chapel on the Scarritt Bennett campus at 1008 19th Avenue South.

“Scarritt has always had a concern for international relations, understanding of cultures and finding ways to have interracial relations,” said Mike Hodge, member of the Scarritt-National Alumni Association.

Scarritt College opened in 1924 in Nashville and was designed to train mission workers with a focus on women missionaries. It became the first private college in Tennessee to admit black students in 1952. Scarritt College was frequented by religious leaders who would convene there for training. Because of the school’s commitment to racial equality, a conference of 300 African-American and white pastors from the Southeast was called in 1957. King was the keynote speaker. Hodge and Scarritt Bennett librarian Steven Gately recently found a copy of King’s speech.

“The fact that King spoke at Scarritt is a big deal. In 1957 it was especially significant because of the race relations at that time. The conference was mainly to help church leaders deal with racial relations. It was a capstone of that conference and what they were trying to do at that time,” said Hodge who was a student at Scarritt in the 70s.

During the Sept. 1 ceremony, the alumni association will host a worship service. During the service, a rendition of King’s speech will be performed. The event is open to the public.

Photo By: AP

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