Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Celebration

By Eric Naylor

In the early 1960’s the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement to achieve equal rights for African Americans. The movement met with fierce, sometimes brutal opposition. Protester were hounded, hunted, threatened, beaten, jailed, and sometimes killed. In the end, though, the movement succeeded, and Dr. King’s birthday became a national holiday.

In January of 1989, an African American student at Boise State named Eric Love found out that the first day of class that year fell on Dr. King’s birthday. He and another student, Dave Hall, asked their organization, the Black Student Union, to stage a protest to convince the University to honor Dr. King’s birthday, arguing that if the Federal Government honored it as a holiday then so should the University.

On the morning of Dr. King’s birthday in 1989, at least 300 people joined a protest march from the plaza in front of the Business Building to the statehouse. President Keiser, the President of Boise State at the time, spoke to the protestors to assure them that he was not opposed to Eric Love, despite public misconceptions, but he was in no position to declare a holiday. He promised to help form a committee to create a human rights program for the following year. He said there should be opportunities at the University to honor Dr. King, or it would just be another day off.

Love co-chaired the new committee, and helped organize events. The first celebration was held in January 1990, with a march to the capitol building. The march has been held annually ever since. Participants meet in the Student Union Building and march together downtown to the Capitol. The march is held annually on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.


Primary Sources: Moody, Anne. Coming of Age in Mississippi. New York: Bantam Dell, 1968. Secondary Sources: “History.” Martin Luther King Jr. Human Rights Celebration. <> (Accessed November 29, 2011).