Brandeis Alumni, Family and Friends

Iconic Figures of the ‘Black Resistance’ in Photos

February 1, 2023

This year’s Black History Month theme is “Black Resistance,” which explores how African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression. To honor that history and continued fight for equality, the Brandeis Alumni Association is highlighting archival photos of some of the artists, authors, and activists who did not attend Brandeis themselves but who have visited campus and inspired our students. All photos are courtesy of Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections.

  • Odetta playing  the piano in front of an audience


    The legendary folk singer, who counted Rosa Parks, MLK, and Bob Dylan among her adoring fans, was often referred to as “the voice of the Civil Rights Movement.” She performed at the historic March on Washington in 1963, and here, she is seen performing at Brandeis on March 7, 1958. The “folk-sing” concert was sponsored by the first-year class.

    Watch an interview between Odetta and Julieanna Richardson ’76, H’16, for The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest video oral history collection documenting the Black experience.

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections

  • Martin Luther King Jr. speaking with Brandeis students

    Martin Luther King, Jr.

    MLK visited campus twice, in 1957 and 1963, to lecture about justice, nonviolence and racism in America. An assortment of photographs, including this one, belonging to Brandeis’ Robert D. Farber University Archives and Special Collections Department not only captures poignant moments from his talks, but also illustrates King’s eagerness to engage Brandeis students, faculty and administrators, including founding president Abram Sachar, at the newly-established university.

    Listen to King's "Justice without Violence" lecture and learn more about his visits to campus.

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections

  • James Baldwin with students

    James Baldwin

    Author James Baldwin, whose works helped to raise public awareness of racial and sexual oppression, spoke before a packed Olin-Sang lecture hall on October 24, 1962, on “The Problem of Evil in American Literature.” George Sher ’64 covered the lecture for The Justice, writing, “Baldwin is a novelist not afraid of dirtying his hands in the muck and mire of life. In fact he plunges in, up to the armpits.”

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections.

  • Maya Angelou

    Maya Angelou

    The esteemed memoirist, popular poet, and civil rights activist, who authored the famed autobiography “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” spoke at Brandeis in April 1989, calling for “unity and cooperation among all people, regardless of race, religion or gender,” according to coverage in The Justice. "We need each other desperately, not only for our survival, but in order to survive with grace, compassion and humanity," she said.

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections.

  • Malcolm X sitting at a table with students

    Malcolm X 

    A minister, leader in the civil rights movement, and supporter of Black nationalism, Malcom X speaks with Brandeis students after a speech in 1963. The student at the center, wearing glasses, a jacket, and open collar shirt, is Richard Borkow ’63; he donated the photo along with 24 others to the university archives.

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections.

  • Toni Morrison signing a book while speaking to a man.

    Toni Morrison 

    On March 28, 1981, author Toni Morrison (right) spoke to a full house at the Levin ballroom on topics including the characteristics of Black art and the importance of oral literature. Shortly after her Brandeis visit she won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel Beloved.

    Photo Credit: Robert D. Farber University Archives & Special Collections.

Were you a Brandeis student when one of these visitors came to campus? Or do you have another recollection to share in honor of Black History Month? Let us know and we may share it on our social media channels throughout the month.

Introducing the Inaugural AAAS Chair

Faith Smith smiling and looking to the left.

Professor Faith Smith will hold the inaugural Marta F. Kauffman ’78 Professorship in African and African American Studies at Brandeis. A leading scholar in Caribbean culture, the African Diaspora, sexuality, and literature, Professor Smith has been a key contributor to the advancement of African and African American Studies. The first endowed professorship in the AAAS department’s 50-year history, this professorship reaffirms Brandeis’ commitment to social justice. Stay tuned for a formal celebration of this appointment with an inaugural lecture.

Learn more about some of our outstanding Black alumni. Read more Black History Month stories.