Students standing outside the MLK Student Center

Students standing outside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Afro-American Student Center

The murder of Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968 sparked the intensification of an NYU program to improve educational opportunities for minority groups. Central to the plan was the establishment of a scholarship program named for Dr. King.

Also in 1968, John Hatchett was hired by Chancellor Cartter to direct the new Martin Luther King Jr. Afro-American Student Center. His appointment became controversial when it was discovered that Hatchett had authored an article accusing the New York City public school system of being dominated by “anti-black Jews and Black Anglo-Saxons.” Religious organizations on campus labeled his comments “Black Nazism.” During the controversy, Hatchett announced that certain seminars at the Center would be open only to Black students. At first, the administration vowed to keep Hatchett, an action which led to issues of racism, anti-Semitism, and freedom of speech being hotly debated on campus. However, after further review and increased pressure, Hatchett was fired. NYU President Hester responded that such policies "are not in keeping with the spirit in which the Center was created and certainly not in keeping with the spirit in which I endorsed it." The University decided that it did not wish to endorse a center that students saw as “a form of separatism,” and the Martin Luther King Jr. Afro-American Student Center came under the control of an independent board of Black students and faculty who were willing to take full responsibility for the Center in order to secure its existence.

The Afro-American Studies Institute was also created to provide lectures, workshops, conferences and programs about Black identity. This is now known as the Institute of African American Affairs.

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