Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute gets $1 million boost

The drive to create a Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute has received a $1 million pledge from the Mumford Family-Agape Foundation, Clayborne Carson, director of the King Papers Project, announced Friday.

An earlier $1 million commitment from NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott and his nonprofit foundation All Stars Helping Kids, along with an agreement from the School of Humanities and Sciences to match donations on a $1 for $2 basis, brings the amount of funds raised for the institute to $3 million, Carson said. The fundraising goal to create an endowed institute that would focus on issues of social justice, social change and social reconciliation is $10 million, he said.

The Mumford Family-Agape Foundation was created by John Mumford, a Graduate School of Business alumnus and founder of Crosspoint Venture Partners. Mumford pledged the funds as a challenge grant, to be released when the next $500,000 is contributed to the institute, said Lindsey Ford, executive director of All Stars Helping Kids.

A research university like Stanford is about two things, said President John Hennessy at a ceremony honoring Lott and others on Friday. "It's about research—understanding the past and the role of a great American like Martin Luther King Jr. And it's about education and the power of sharing his contributions and his vision, not only with our own students but to help educate people around the United States."

On Friday, Lott was named a recipient of a Martin Luther King Jr. "Keeping the Dream Alive" award. Other recipients included civil rights movement documentary photographer Matt Herron, Steven J. Logwood of Positive Records, writer and performer Awele Makeba and Claudette Colvin. Colvin was arrested after she refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., bus, nine months before the more famous arrest of Rosa Parks. Makeba performed a one-woman play about the history of the Montgomery bus boycott on campus last Thursday evening.

Award recipients received the King Papers Project's newly published fifth volume of a planned 14-volume history of the civil rights leader's most significant correspondence, sermons, speeches, published writings and unpublished manuscripts. The latest volume, Threshold of a New Decade, covers the period from January 1959 through December 1960.

The institute will allow King's message to be disseminated to future generations, Carson said. Since the King Center in Atlanta asked Carson to edit King's papers in 1985, "the one thing we soon learned is that King is a very living legacy," he said. "Not everybody wants to read 600 pages in a volume. We knew that we had to make the educational process available to people at every age level everywhere in the world."

Those working on the King Papers also quickly concluded that their work wasn't solely about King—a lesson they learned from King himself, Carson said. "King always emphasized that he was a symbol for something much larger. He was a symbol for the global struggle for justice and democracy."

King is known throughout the world as more than a black civil rights leader, in ways that Mohandas Gandhi is known as more than an Indian independence fighter, Carson said. Like Gandhi, King placed his vision within the larger context of the struggle for social justice, he said.

"Our task is to take this tremendous message that liberated the majority of the people on the face of the earth during the 20th century" from colonialism, apartheid and Jim Crow laws, Carson said. "The most important message is not that people suffered, but that people liberated themselves."

Lott said that he had been asked why he was making the contribution to Stanford rather than the University of Southern California, where he was a safety for the Trojans before beginning his professional football career. "I'm not making a commitment to Stanford," Lott said. "I made a commitment to some people who want to continue a dream. I made a commitment to my parents, and I made a commitment to my people.

"This is not about football," he continued. "I hope my life is not about football. I hope my life is what my parents' life was about—and that was making change."