‘You have been the conscience of our nation’

On May 17, 1967, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke out against the Vietnam War on the steps of UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall.

Martin Luther King speaking on the Sproul steps in 1967. (UC Berkeley photo by Helen Nestor)

The civil rights leader told students: “You, in a real sense, have been the conscience of the academic community and our nation.”

A photograph of that event, taken by the late Berkeley photographer Helen Nestor, has hung in the Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union since 2002, when the photographer returned to campus to make a gift of her image. The photo was taken down for recent renovations to the student union and, facility representatives say, is being reframed to be rehung.

At the May 17, 2002, Convocation Day event when Nestor returned to campus, she talked about taking her historic photo with the campus news office.

“It was a warm and special feeling to photograph him,” said Nestor, who had polio and was allowed to photograph Dr. King at closer range than other photographers because of her disability. “The students were very charged up and very much with Dr. King. It was a special time.” Nestor died in 2008.

Berkeley’s student union did not become the Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Union until February 1985, more than 17 years after King’s anti-Vietnam War speech at Berkeley.

Related information:

From the Berkeley Blog: “King’s evolving Dream”

Helen Nestor’s Free Speech Movement photos at the Bancroft