April 4, 2019, 51 years after his assassination.
April 4, 2019, 51 years after his assassination.

VU Honorary Doctorate

On October 20, 1965, Dr. Martin Luther King was awarded a honorary doctorate in Social Science by the VU (Vrije Universiteit, 'Free University') in Amsterdam, to celebrate the 17th lustrum. Queen Juliana, Prince Bernhard and Princes Beatrix were present at the ceremony in the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Dr. King wasn't allowed to speech after the ceremony, because tradition says only one laureate can speak. And prince Bernhard, who also received a honorary doctorate, was considered more important than 'an American'. As an alternative, Dr. King gave a speech for thousand students of the VU university the following day.

King received at least fifty honorary degrees from colleges and universities. In 1965, he was awarded the American Liberties Medallion for his "exceptional advancement of the principles of human liberty."

In his acceptance remarks, King said, "Freedom is one thing. You have it all or you are not free."

In 1966, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America awarded King the Margaret Sanger Award for "his courageous resistance to bigotry and his lifelong dedication to the advancement of social justice and human dignity." In November 1967 he made a 24-hour trip to the United Kingdom to receive an honorary degree from Newcastle University, being the first African-American to be so honored by Newcastle. In a moving impromptu acceptance speech, he said: "There are three urgent and indeed great problems that we face not only in the United States of America but all over the world today. That is the problem of racism, the problem of poverty and the problem of war."

On September 4, 2018, at the opening of the academic year, the Martin Luther King statue got a permanent place next to the memorial sign of Dr. King (1982 by Fenna Westendiep). Location: VU main building, Balcony 1, next to the Auditorium. De Boelelaan 1105, Amsterdam. Thanks to Liselotte Neervoort, Curator of Academic Heritage at VU University.

 

The presentation of the honorary degree in the Concertgebouw, 1965.  Photo: Nationaal Archief.
The presentation of the honorary degree in the Concertgebouw, 1965. Photo: Nationaal Archief.
Opening of the academic year and presentation of the statue, September 2018
Opening of the academic year and presentation of the statue, September 2018
 VU chairman of the board Mirjam van Praag, receives the statue, April 5, 2018. Host of The Martin Luther ing Lecture: Jörgen Raymann
VU chairman of the board Mirjam van Praag, receives the statue, April 5, 2018. Host of The Martin Luther ing Lecture: Jörgen Raymann