October 2, 2023

Chavis Delivered Keynote Address for UMW’s Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

A civil rights trailblazer and former NAACP executive director, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. was the keynote speaker for UMW’s MLK Jr. Celebration.

A civil rights trailblazer and former NAACP executive director, Dr. Benjamin Chavis Jr. was the keynote speaker for UMW’s MLK Jr. Celebration.

In 1961, Benjamin Chavis Jr., tired of reading tattered books, boldly marched into the whites-only library in Oxford, North Carolina. The young teen, already a NAACP member, was promptly asked to leave; instead, he stood his ground.

“He asked why,” a friend recalled to The New York Times. “A lot of us when we were told to go away would just do so, but Ben would always challenge, always ask why.”

Chavis’ persistence resulted in blacks being able to borrow books from the Oxford library. It also led to a lifelong career fighting for justice and equality. Just two years after the library incident, he became a statewide youth coordinator for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Now a civil rights icon himself and the NAACP’s former executive director, Chavis delivered the University of Mary Washington’s MLK Jr. Celebration keynote address on Wednesday in the University Center’s Chandler Ballroom. The event was sponsored by the Office of the President.

Hosted by the James Farmer Multicultural Center (JFMC), this weeklong celebration recognizes the life – and assassination – of Dr. King. Events include an MLK Jr. Kids Day, a documentary on his life and legacy, a Day of Service for the UMW community, and a visual and performing arts event honoring King and other champions of social justice. Read more.