A day after Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered a riveting speech to University of the West Indies graduands at the Mona campus in St Andrew, the American civil rights leader was, on June 21, 1965, presented with the Key to the City of Kingston.
Archival material of the event report that he spoke for more than 40 minutes during which he made a moving confession to the large audience at the National Stadium.
“In Jamaica, I feel like a human being,” said the man who passionately spoke out against racism, injustice, and inequality in his country, so much so that he was arrested numerous times.
In a later speech after the trip, Dr King had this to say about Jamaica:
“The other day Mrs King and I spent about ten days down in Jamaica. I’d gone down to deliver the commencement address at the University of the West Indies. I always love to go to that great island which I consider the most beautiful island in all the world. The Government prevailed upon us to be their guests and spend some time and try to get a little rest while there on the speaking tour.
“And so, for those days we travelled all over Jamaica. And over and over again I was impressed by one thing. Here you have people from many national backgrounds: Chinese, Indians, so-called Negroes, and you can just go down the line, Europeans, European and people from many, many nations. Do you know they all live there and they have a motto in Jamaica, ‘Out of many people, one people.’ And they say, ‘Here in Jamaica we are not Chinese, we are not Japanese, we are not Indians, we are not Negroes, we are not Englishmen, we are not Canadians. But we are all one big family of Jamaicans.’
“One day, here in America, I hope that we will see this and we will become one big family of Americans. Not white Americans, not black Americans, not Jewish or Gentile Americans, not Irish or Italian Americans, not Mexican Americans, not Puerto Rican Americans, but just Americans. One big family of Americans.”