The University of South Carolina honors the life of civil rights leader Martin Luther
King Jr. annually with a week of service-focused activities and events.
The University of South Carolina began honoring the life of Martin Luther King Jr.
three years before his birthdate was declared a federal holiday by President Ronald
Reagan and 14 years before then-Governor Jim Hodges signed the holiday into law across
the state of South Carolina.
Honoring a Civil Rights Leader
In January 1983, the USC Black Alumni Caucus sponsored the first university program.
The group continued to sponsor the event, held in Rutledge Chapel, until 1986. In
1986, the program was expanded and moved to the Russell House Ballroom featuring King’s
daughter, Yolanda King, as keynote speaker. In 1999 then-President John M. Palms canceled classes
and declared the day a university-wide day of service. That tradition continues today
under the leadership of President Harris Pastides.
A Week of Service and Reflection
More than 30 years later the Rutledge Chapel service has grown into a major university
tradition. Each January, around the time of King's birthday — January 15 — the university
hosts a wide-ranging week of activities, including a commemorative breakfast, a day
of service, a food drive, and presents the university’s Social Justice Awards. In
addition, many university programs and offices host events to celebrate King's legacy
and ideals during the week.
2018 Social Justice Awards
One highlight of the week is the announcement of the university's annual Social Justice
Awards during the MLK Commemorative Breakfast. The awards recognize individuals who exemplify the philosophies of King through
random or ongoing acts of community service, social justice or racial reconciliation.
In 2018, the following recipients were nominated and recognized by their peers as
leaders in social justice.
Campbell is a longtime faculty member of the College of Information and Communications'
School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He has a long, sustained record of promoting
social justice, advancing the needs of underrepresented groups in the academy and
the profession, and sharing an understanding of the effects of biased media portrayals
on racial perceptions through his service, teaching and research.
Daizha, a College of Education student, was nominated for her academics as well as
leadership in social justice and racial equity within the university and in the wider
educational community. Her work with children will affect change that will lead to
more equitable educational experiences for young children and her work through the
REACH organization and Urban Education Cohort have led to genuine and productive conversations
Sarah is student services manager for the School of Library and Information Science
in the College of Information and Communications. She is active in racial justice
work and formed the Columbia Chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, part of a multiracial
movement to help build a racially just society. She is also a graduate of the Modjeska
Simkins School, a civic engagement institute designed to help citizens of all ages
learn how to promote democracy and justice in South Carolina.
Michele is a clinical assistant professor and MAT coordinator within the Elementary
Education Department of the College of Education. Myers was recognized for understanding
the significant role education plays in our journey toward becoming a socially just
society. A magnificent teacher, scholar and social justice advocate, she is especially
accomplished in teaching, research, and service that centers around equality and justice.