N.C. Central University alumnus Henry M. Michaux Jr. shared stories on campus Wednesday afternoon about his friend, Martin.
Martin would stay at his house whenever he visited Durham. They would stay up all hours of the night talking. Martin enjoyed his mother’s cooking.
Years later, Martin Luther King Jr. would invite Michaux to the March on Washington. On Aug. 28, 1963, Michaux took a cab to the Lincoln Memorial and watched the masses, hand-in-hand, using peaceful protests to forward the civil rights movement.
“Hey, Martin,” Michaux said to King before his speech. “Whatcha going to talk about?”
“I got some notes in my pocket; I’m just not sure yet,” Michaux said was King’s response.
Michaux and NCCU political science senior Tiffany Adams together rang the Shepard Bell, named after university founder Dr. James E. Shepard, at 3 p.m. Wednesday on campus to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the March on Washington’s 50th anniversary.
In the name of civil rights, hundreds of sites around the world celebrated by ringing bells in unison that afternoon, to include Durham’s historically black university.
Michaux and Adams represented two generations, one that attended the original march and the other who attended the 50-year anniversary march last Saturday. Adams said it was just like the photos she’d seen from 50 years ago.
More than 100 people - alum, students, faculty and staff alike - gathered Wednesday off Campus Drive to hear NCCU Chancellor Debra Saunders-White speak and to hear the bell ring.
Saunders-White said that a year after the historic march on the National Mall, Martin Luther King Jr. appeared on NCCU’s campus and addressed more than 5,000 people regarding his views on the end to segregation. His discussion on Nov. 13, 1964, was called “Remaining Awake through a Great Revolution.”
“The new order of freedom and dignity is coming,” said Saunders-White, quoting King’s campus speech. “I have no doubt tonight about that fact, that the system of racial segregation is on its deathbed.”
Michaux, who also is a N.C. state representative, received his biology and chemistry undergraduate degree in 1952 and his law degree in 1964. He served as chairman of Durham’s black chamber of commerce, and he said King always wanted to visit Durham because “Durham was sort of on the cutting edge of the civil rights movement.”
“We’d sit up all hours of the night talking,” Michaux said of their visits.
He said he remembers when King spoke at St. Mark AME Zion Church on South Roxboro Street. King had to make a 10:30 p.m. flight, but he ended up staying through the night.
Before his speech, King had told Michaux, “I have a feeling coming on.”
Michaux is 83 now, and he said every now and then it actually feels like 50 years have gone by.
“My wife is jumping on me now for not writing (my memories) down,” he said. “…What I saw 50 years ago can never be reproduced.”
Adams, the NCCU senior and a Student Government Association executive board member, said she remembers learning about the March on Washington in elementary and middle school classes, and she could always imagine herself participating.
“It was good seeing the new and the old,” Adams said. “People still care; people still fight for their rights.
“I just wanted to experience that for myself.”