Event Part of Ongoing Spring Activities Honoring Dr. King’s Life, Legacy
The public will have the opportunity to learn from the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, a Civil Rights leader and close friend of Dr. Martin Luther King who was with him during the last hour of his life, when Frostburg State University honors King’s legacy with a special celebration at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in the Performing Arts Center’s Pealer Recital Hall. The free event, part of ongoing spring programming focusing on King organized by FSU and Allegany College of Maryland, features Kyles as the keynote speaker, with welcoming remarks by FSU President Jonathan Gibralter, music by the FSU Chamber Choir and Unified Voices Under God’s Dominion and a student art award presentation.
“Having Rev. Kyles here—someone who was actively involved in the fight for racial integration and bus boycotts in Memphis, among many other important advocacy efforts—is truly an honor, and a fitting tribute to our community celebration of Dr. King’s message of peace and social justice,” said John Bowman, FSU Vice Provost. “This is an extraordinary opportunity for the public to hear first hand what it was like during the Civil Rights Movement, and to learn more about Kyle’s current work as a national figure and advocate who is ensuring that Dr. King’s ideas and legacy live on.”
About the Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles
Thrust into the segregated South in the 1950s, Kyles’ passion for social justice quickly surfaced. He joined the NAACP-Memphis Branch and became a strategist for the South’s growing struggle for civil rights. In 1961, he was one of a small group of parents who enrolled their young children in an all-white school to integrate the public school system. Two years later, he, along with other pioneers, fully integrated the city buses by sitting in the designated “white” section. His initial action landed him in jail, but his involvement in nonviolent protests continued. Slowly, he and other leaders worked to bring down the walls of segregation in restaurants, movie theaters, department stores and workplaces in Memphis. Kyles was later an eyewitness to King’s assassination.
Today, Kyles is a highly regarded national speaker, addressing groups and organizations throughout the United States and abroad. He is a founding national board member of People United to Serve Humanity (PUSH) and a current national board and executive committee member of Rainbow Coalition/PUSH. He served as executive director of Rainbow/PUSH-Memphis and executive producer of its weekly radio broadcast for more than 30 years. He was appointed by the Clinton administration to serve on the Advisory Committee on Religious Freedom Abroad, and in 1998 served as a panelist at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes.
Celebrate King’s Life throughout Month of April
The April 17 celebration at FSU is one of many free events happening during the month of April focusing on King’s life and ideas. Enjoy film, discussion and other opportunities to meet and learn from the Rev. Kyles during the following activities:
- The public is also invited to exchange ideas during “Intergenerational Perspectives on Dr. King,” a panel discussion from 3 to 4:30 p.m. April 16 in FSU’s Compton Science Center, room 327. Join the Rev. Kyles and faculty and student leaders from FSU and Allegany College of Maryland for a discussion and reflection on King’s life and legacy.
- Learn more about the eventful months in 1968 Memphis that led to King’s death by watching the documentary, “At the River I Stand.” The film will be shown at several times and locations: 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 15, at the Allegany Arts Council’s Saville Gallery, 52 Baltimore St. in downtown Cumberland, and 7:30 to 9:30 pm. Wednesday, April 16, at Frostburg’s Palace Theatre, 31 E. Main St. The Rev. Kyles will share his thoughts on the sanitation workers’ strike and King’s work in Memphis following the documentary screenings.
- The Rev. Kyles will discuss the events in Memphis leading up to King's arrival, King's vision of economic justice and Kyles' own recollection of April 4, 1968, during a discussion 9:30 to 11 a.m. Thursday, April 17, at Allegany College of Maryland Theatre, 12401 Willowbrook Road, Cumberland.
For more information on the ongoing Martin Luther King celebration happening throughout April, call 301-687-4211.
The King project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
FSU is committed to making all of its programs, services and activities accessible to persons with disabilities. To request accommodations through the ADA Compliance Office, call 301-687-4102 or use a Voice Relay Operator at 1-800-735-2258.