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Black History Month

Dr. Martin Luther King's visit to WMU

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Visit to WMU and the Lost Tape

Visit the guide that highlights Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s, December 18,1963 visit and speech at Western Michigan University. 

Martin Luther Kings Jr. sitting at microphone.Dr. King spoke at WMU just four months after he made his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. The speech transcription and accompanying documents provide additional information to better understand Dr. King's enduring influence on Western's campus through the programs and curricula established in the late 1960s and the broader societal changes brought about by his nonviolent movement for civil rights and social justice for all.  

The Lost Tape

The tape recording of the live broadcast of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s December 18, 1963 speech was lost for almost 30 years. The tape was rebroadcast at the time of Dr. King's assassination in 1968 but was later lost until 1997. The reel to reel tapes, cassette copies, and digital copies on DVD  are held at the Zhang Legacy Collections Center.

-Sharon Carlson, Professor Emerita University Libraries and former Director of the Zhang Legacy Collections Center. 

Focus and Focus News

Focus and Focus News 

An African-American newspaper based in Kalamazoo, Focus was published bi-weekly from June 1965 to July 1966. It was published monthly after that. In April 1968, the name was changed to Focus News.

Front page of Focus newspaper from Summer of 1965.

Kalamazoo’s longest, continuously produced newspaper reporting on news of interest to the African-American community, Focus News was published from 1968 to 1982

.Front page of Focus News newspaper from April 1971.

Merze Tate, Western Alumna

Merze Tate
 A black-and-white image of Dr Merze Tate, a Black woman, receiving her doctorate degree at an indoor graduation ceremony. She is wearing the traditional Doctorate regalia with a cap, gown, and hood. Several white male faculty are seated behind her in regalia and clapping, while a white man with glasses hands her the certificate.

Dr. Tate hails from Blanchard, Michigan and was the first Black student to receive an undergraduate degree from Western State Teacher's College in 1927. To the right, Merze Tate receives the distinguished alumni award in 1970. Image courtesy Western Michigan University Archives. 

"KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Professor. World traveler. Journalist. Inventor. This 20th century renaissance woman may not have made it to the moon, but Dr. Merze Tate's resolve to boldly blaze her own path puts her among Western Michigan University's brightest stars."

Discover more about Dr. Tate

WMU Libraries has a large selection of Tate's scholarly works as well as secondary resources on her and read "Merze Tate: A trailblazing Western alumna who made an international impact." a  WMU News article Feb. 1, 2021

Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress

The Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress

The digitized version of Michigan Manual of Freedmen's Progress' book, 1915 edition has been fully digitized including photographs, charts, and searchable text and is available as pdf files. 

This book, published in 1915, was digitized in 2008 to fill a need for classroom support regarding an important out-of-print book on Michigan History. 

Oral Histories at WMU

Oral Histories at WMU

Oral histories collected by the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections. Includes the WMU Centennial Oral History Collection, a collection of oral histories by Western alumni, faculty, staff, and friends collected 1987-2003 for the WMU Centennial in 2003.

More Oral History Resources

Pauline Byrd Taylor Johnson Collection, 1922-1988

Pauline Johnson Byrd Collection, 1922-1988

Pauline Johnson Byrd was the first African American graduate of Kalamazoo College. This is a physical collection and is held at the Zhang Legacy Collection.

WMU Archives Photo Collection

WMU Archives Photo Collection

The Western Michigan University Archives Photograph Collection contains images from Western Michigan University's history. The collection includes images of campus and campus life, buildings, and individual and group images of students, faculty, staff, and administration.

WMU Archives Photo Collection Highlights

Russell C. Williams Honorary Degree

A black-and-white image of Russell C Williams, a Black man, receiving his honoary doctorate degree at an outdoor graduation ceremony. Two white men in graduation regalia sit behind another white man who is speaking to Dr Williams as he recieves his certificate.

Western Michigan University President James Miller conferring an honorary Doctor of Humanities to Russell C. Williams at Commencement on June 6, 1964. Behind James Miller and Russell Williams sits faculty in academic regalia. A blinded World War II Veteran, Williams was the first Chief of the Blind Rehabilitation Section of the Veterans Administration's Department of Medicine and Surgery. Williams had been serving as a counselor for blinded soldiers at Valley Forge, and also participated in both blind rehabilitation training programs at Valley Forge and Avon Old Farms.

Donna Hackley Powell, alumni

A black-and-white image of Donna Hackley Powell, a Black woman, sitting at a desk. She is wearing a white lab coat with a black stethoscope around her neck. She is holding a book while facing the camera.

Photograph of Donna Hackley Powell, 1947 graduate of Western State Teachers College, from the Western Michigan University News Magazine, Spring 1961. Dr. Powell served as a physician at Fort Custer Veterans Administration Hospital in Battle Creek.