As UC Berkeley marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day with an official holiday Monday, the campus’s best known photograph of the late civil rights leader is getting a new frame, fit for its place of honor in the newly renovated student union that’s named for him.
Photographer Helen Nestor’s black-and-white image is a close-up of Dr. King taken during his last speech on campus, on May 17, 1967. He spoke out against the Vietnam War, and drew a crowd of thousands to Sproul Plaza less than a year before his assassination.
Nestor was allowed to photograph his speech at close range because polio limited her mobility, according to campus coverage at the time. In 2002, she returned to campus to deliver her gift of a 24-by-36-inch print to be hung in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union.
“It was a warm and special feeling to photograph him,” said Nestor at the time. “The students were very charged up and very much with Dr. King. It was a special time.”
This quote from King’s speech, on a gold plaque, was displayed beneath the photo: “You, in a real sense, have been the conscience of the academic community and our nation.”
The student union building underwent a transformation as part of the Lower Sproul renovation project. The entire ASUC Student Union, which encompasses the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union and the rest of the Lower Sproul renovation, reopened in stages last year.
After reframing, the King photo will be hung in the MLK Student Union once again.
Read the UC Berkeley NewsCenter’s 2002 coverage of the Nestor gift.
Read the San Francisco Chronicle‘s 2014 article revisiting King’s 1967 speech and view a slideshow.