Harry Belafonte and Julian Bond Photo by Cole Geddy

From a rousing choir performance at the Mount Zion First African Baptist Church to a moving speech by UVA history professor and former NAACP chairman Julian Bond, the University’s two-week commemoration of the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. celebrated the intricacies of his message of racial equality. Those two weeks also allowed UVA to explore its own racial history and honor those individuals who contributed to it.

Henry Martin’s great-granddaughter, Ruth Fleming Hunt Photo by Dan Addison
This year, UVA observed its 27th annual Community MLK Celebration, and stories were told about UVA figures past and present. The earliest story was that of Henry Martin, an enslaved black man born at Monticello. For decades, both as a slave and as a free man, Martin worked for UVA, where he was the University bell ringer. Local historians and officials recounted Martin’s story in the Dome Room of the Rotunda and, with his 87-year-old great-granddaughter in the audience, named Jan. 25 “Henry Martin Day.”

Bond and W.J. Michael Cody (Law ’61), whose Memphis law firm represented King during a 1968 march for sanitation workers’ rights, shared accounts of the difficult days and steady work of the civil rights movement in the months before King’s assassination. Bond also joined musician and civil rights activist Harry Belafonte for a conversation at the Paramount Theater, in which Belafonte screened and spoke about Sing Your Song, a documentary film about his entertainment and activism careers.