Tyne & Wear

Martin Luther King's 1967 Tyneside visit marked with events

An image of Martin Luther King Jr – by artist Derek Russell - projected on to a Newcastle University building to mark the launch of Freedom City 2017 Image copyright Paul Kingston/NNP
Image caption An image of Martin Luther King Jr - by artist Derek Russell - was projected on to a Newcastle University building to mark the launch of Freedom City 2017

The 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr's visit to the north-east of England is to be celebrated with a year-long series of events.

The American accepted an honorary doctorate in civil law from Newcastle University on 13 November 1967.

Tyneside's Freedom City 2017 will see outdoor events, exhibitions and public art mark that occasion.

His Newcastle speech was the last he made outside the United States before his assassination in 1968.

King had recently been released from prison when he visited Tyneside for 24 hours.

Footage of the ceremony lay forgotten in the university's archives for more than 40 years.

The launch of the programme of events, running in Newcastle and Gateshead throughout 2017, coincides with Martin Luther King Jr Day, which is held on the third Monday of January in the US.

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Media captionRare film of a speech given by Martin Luther King will screen for the first time to those who were there over 40 years ago

Professor Richard Davies, pro-vice-chancellor for engagement and internationalism at Newcastle University, said: "Awarding an honorary degree was the highest honour the university could bestow and came at a time when Dr King was an increasingly controversial figure.

"Indeed, Newcastle was the only UK university to honour Dr King in this way during his lifetime and it remains one of the most important moments in our history."

A bronze sculpture will be unveiled at the university in November.

The Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art will host a civil rights-themed exhibition, while Great North Museum: Hancock will tell the story of King's visit.

A series of drama, dance and art performances will focus on people who have campaigned for political and social change.

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