Journalist and activist Dorothy Butler Gilliam to speak at MLK commemoration

Jan. 16 event will feature pioneering Washington Post reporter

MLK Commemoration
The University’s Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Jan. 16 will feature remarks from and a conversation with Dorothy Butler Gilliam.
Photo by
Jean Lachat
University Communications

Dorothy Butler Gilliam, a civil rights activist and the first African-American female reporter at The Washington Post, will offer the keynote address at the University’s Martin Luther King Jr. commemoration on Jan. 16. After her remarks, she will have a conversation with her daughter Prof. Melissa Gilliam, vice provost for academic leadership, advancement and diversity at UChicago, and take questions from the audience.

The event will begin at 6 p.m. at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel and will be webcast on Facebook Live.

Dorothy Gilliam began her storied Post career in 1961 and covered several key civil rights events, including the integration of schools in Little Rock, Ark. and the University of Mississippi. In 1979, she launched a popular column covering education, politics and race that ran for the next 19 years.

Personally, Dorothy Gilliam initiated change and promoted equity through spearheading protests and organizing groups to support young and minority journalists. The Washington Press Club awarded Gilliam its lifetime achievement award in 2010. Her book Trailblazer: A Memoir by the First Black Woman Reporter at The Washington Post, will be published this year.

“The University of Chicago is excited to have Dorothy Butler Gilliam as this year’s MLK speaker,” said Regina Dixon-Reeves, assistant vice provost for diversity and inclusion. “She is a trailblazer in her field and has worked tirelessly as an advocate for minority and young journalists. We look forward to hearing about her coverage of the Civil Rights era and stories from her many years as both a reporter and leader.”

The MLK commemoration at Rockefeller Chapel, which is free and open to the public, will highlight a number of events in UChicago’s 28th annual celebration. On Jan. 16 the University will honor this year’s Diversity Leadership Awards recipients for their commitment to promoting diversity and equality: They are faculty member Randolph N. Stone, alumna Sunny Fischer and staff member Scott Cook.

The University Community Service Center is partnering with UChicago Lab Schools and UChicago Charter School to host a day of service on Jan. 13. That afternoon, the Civic Knowledge Project will partner with civil rights leader Timuel Black, AM’54, for a tour of the South Side, and discuss his work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This is the first in a series of events to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination.