The Martin Luther King Center was established in 1987 at the University of Kentucky to serve as a space that offered underserved students, particularly of Black identity, a chance to find community, advocacy and to facilitate culturally ethnic based education across the campus community rooted in Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s philosophy of nonviolence social change. After increased demands by Black students and staff and after the removal of the original utility closet in the Gatton Student Center, the Martin Luther King Center was created and positioned in the previous Gatton Student Center near the bookstore where it soon became a pivotal space for the UK community. The Office was also opened in January of 1987 in alignment with the National MLK Jr Day Holiday to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy and contribution to equity and inclusion around the world. In the earlier days, the Office was known as the Martin Luther King Cultural Center, hosting many different cultural enrichment programs and initiatives well known for bringing world renowned and local activists/speakers, artists, exhibits, creative arts (plays, music showcase, spoken word, poetry), educational lecturers and collaborative programs open to all members (students, faculty, staff) the UK campus and local Lexington community. Overtime the office began known for its highlight providing cultural awareness for other ethnic/racial minorities at UK (Latinx/Hispanic, indigenous/aboriginal/native American and Asian/Pacific Islander), its collaborative programs with academic resources including both Departments and Student Services and expanded its roots in providing social justice and global educations at the University. Over the years, the office has undergone different names and focuses but remains a pivotal advocate for both local and global issues involving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice through its operations. Today the office continues to remain committed to creating a sense of community and belonging for students across diverse identities through its multicultural programming, student advocacy and mission.
The Martin Luther King Center seeks to empower University of Kentucky students across identities to improve their college experience by promoting access to academic, civic leadership and cultural exchange opportunities rooted in Dr. King's philosophy.
The Center also develops events which promote cultural awareness, leadership development and foster community through collaborative efforts with student organizations, campus partners and faculty to enhance belonging and student success.
The Center works to provide a campus wide "brave space" for civic dialogue and community building. We advocate for under-served students populations to develop their cultural identity without fear of harassment and with the support of others striving to do the same.
To be the state's leading learning-laboratory on multiculturalism, social justice and pluralistic behavior.