Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial rally, Bascom Hill, UW-Madison, April 5, 1968

On the third Monday of every January, America honors one of the great martyrs to the cause of civil rights, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. To commemorate his lifetime of commitment and sacrifice, we share with you today an audio file from the American Archive of Public Broadcasting, courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison Archive, Steenbock Library and Wisconsin Public Radio.

The day following Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chancellor William Sewell suspended classes to mourn the assassinated civil rights leader. That afternoon, on April 5, 1968, a huge gathering of students and faculty met at the campus’s Bascom Hill to participate in memorial services. The Madison Police Department called it “the largest mass demonstration ever held in Madison,” with an estimated total of 15,000 participants.

“It has been a long time since this whole university community has felt a loss so deeply. This man more than any other challenged the forces of hatred and bigotry. This man more than any other gave us a hope that someday this nation might rise above racism and intolerance,” spoke Chancellor William Sewell. “It would be a betrayal of America if we did not learn from his death and if we did not now pledge ourselves to carry forward the spirit and the promise of his faith.”

Black student leaders Sidney Glass, Kenny Erwin, Kenny Williamson and Clara Meek were among the speakers of the memorial service. A predominantly white audience listened to them talk about their grief, racism, the importance of black solidarity. After the students had spoken, the crowd marched up State Street and around the square on UW-Madison’s campus.

The next day, hundreds of students met in classrooms and held discussion forums led by black students. In response to Dr. King’s assassination, the university pledged to create a Martin Luther King scholarship fund “to work for the elimination of racism and racial misunderstanding on campus and within the community…”

Originally recorded on 1/4″ audio tape, the audio clip we have shared today was digitized as part of the initial 40,000 hours of content preserved in the American Archive collection.

Audio clip courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, Steenbock Library; Contribution, Wisconsin Public Radio
Image courtesy University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives, Steenbock Library
Content provided from the media collection of Wisconsin Public Broadcasting, a service of the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. All rights reserved by the particular owner of content provided. For more information, please contact 1-800-422-9707
This post was written by Casey E. Davis, Project Manager for the AAPB at WGBH.

2 thoughts on “Dr. Martin Luther King Memorial rally, Bascom Hill, UW-Madison, April 5, 1968

  1. …from CARLOTA ALMANZA-LUMPKIN; WTVS/Detroit Public Television

    As AAPP, AACIP and now AAPB Archive Project Manager for WTVS/Detroit PTV’s Archives; I truly appreciate the efforts of the coordinators from all over the system, who are preserving the cultural heritage in video. As a former producer of Detroit Black Journal (and production coordinator) for our Special 20 Year Review of the 1963 March on Detroit/March on Washington [(c) 1988 ] . . . I’d like to share a link for all to view this episode.

    It’s one of Detroit Public TV’s jewel presentations for the importance of archiving. Prior to the AAPP and AACIP project; our Michigan State University started a digitizing project for our long running minority affairs program, DETROIT BLACK JOURNAL.

    *Please, take the time to view what we produced on what happened in DETROIT, prior to DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING’s Historic MARCH ON WASHINGTON.


    ***click on the FlowPlayer and enlarge to full screen

    Thank You All…Here’s to Martin Luther King Day, ~Carlota Almanza-Lumpkin Manager of Production, WTVS


  2. Hi Carlota,

    Thank you so much for your comment and for sharing this March on Washington video with us. We are all indeed working together to preserve our cultural heritage, as much of it has been recorded on media since the mid 20th century. Since then public broadcasting has been on history’s front lines — it is essential that we make sure it is preserved and accessible to generations in years to come.

    In solidarity,

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