World-renowned author, poet and activist Dr. Maya Angelou will deliver the keynote address at Wake Forest’s ceremony honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday, Jan. 18. Angelou, the Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest, will speak in Wait Chapel. The program begins at 7 p.m. and is free and open to the public. The doors to Wait Chapel will open at 6:15 p.m.
Angelou worked with King in the 1960s as Northern Coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. She has written that King’s assassination, on her birthday in 1968, left her devastated. Shortly after that, she began work on what would become the critically acclaimed “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.” Since then, she has written 30 bestselling works of verse, nonfiction and fiction. She was named Reynolds Professor at Wake Forest in 1982.
The program is sponsored by Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State University. This is the 10th year the two universities have co-sponsored a keynote event to commemorate King’s life.
This year’s theme, “On Common Ground: They Stood Together Then. We Stand Together Now,” is in recognition of the 50th anniversary of the lunch counter sit-ins at the F.W. Woolworth store in Winston-Salem on February 8, 1960. Even though Wake Forest was segregated at the time, ten white Wake Forest students joined 11 black students from Winston-Salem State University to protest segregation. The students were arrested and later convicted, but their actions were the first step toward Wake Forest desegregating its student body.
“Wake Forest boasts our heritage as the first private university in the South to become integrated; and we are proud of the relationship we’ve fostered with WSSU since students from both our universities participated in a sit-in demonstration at the F.W. Woolworth store to protest segregation 50 years ago,” said Barbee Oakes (’80, MA ’81), assistant provost for diversity and inclusion.
The Martin Luther King program is sponsored by the Provost’s Office and the Office of Multicultural Affairs at Wake Forest and the Office of Student Activities at Winston-Salem State.
During the program, the Wake Forest Gospel Choir will perform, and the winners of this year’s “MLK Building the Dream” award will be recognized. The annual award recognizes one professor or administrator and one student from both Wake Forest and Winston-Salem State who embody King’s spirit and work to make his dream come alive in their communities.