The two-metre-tall bronze statue of Martin Luther King Jr, situated in the inner courtyard of the Armstrong Building, was erected in 2017 to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle to accept an honorary degree. It stands in the King’s Quad, next to King’s Hall, the setting for Dr King’s honorary degree ceremony in 1967. The statue now forms a focal point of the procession route that students at the University take at the end of their graduation ceremony. The first major art commission by the University since 1962, the statue was unveiled by Ambassador Andrew Young, a close friend and colleague of Dr King who accompanied him to Newcastle in 1967.
The base of the statue is encircled by bronze lettering inset into Caithness paving, featuring text taken from the civil rights leader’s powerful acceptance speech in which he spoke of the ‘three urgent and grave problems’ facing the world: war, poverty and racism. It was Dr King’s last public address outside the US before he was assassinated, barely six months later. The statue was created by sculptor Nigel Boonham who spent months researching Dr King before deciding on the statue’s final pose, which he described as, “Dr King standing firm with legs apart, holding his hat and leaning back slightly. It appeared to me that Dr King was braced for whatever came his way.”
The statue’s installation and unveiling were significant milestones in Freedom City 2017, a year-long city-wide programme of events which commemorated the anniversary of Dr King’s visit to Newcastle.
Learn more about Martin Luther King’s visit to Newcastle in 1967 is this online exhibition.
Newcastle University Press Office (2017) Statue unveiled in honour of Martin Luther King Jr. Available at: https://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/articles/archive/2017/11/martinlutherkingstatueunveiled/
Want to learn more about the history of Newcastle University campus? Why not explore all the articles in our Campus Tour blog series.