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Delaware dignitaries gather at DSU for annual MLK Day program

Delaware State University's concert choir performing at the school's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
Paul Kiefer
/
Delaware Public Media
Delaware State University's concert choir performed at the school's annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.

Delaware State University’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day program welcomed an array of state and local officials including Gov. John Carney and Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester.

The school has held an event marking the holiday since 1987 – a year after the federal holiday went into effect. One of the original event's organizers, former Dover city councilman Reuben Salters, was in the audience on Monday, though he was not among the day's speakers.

Salters says that at the time, Dover's City Council refused to recognize the holiday. “They were against everything," he said. "That spurred me to go a little further, so I got on city council and stayed on city council for 22 years.” Salters was the first elected Black member of Dover's City Council; he retired in 2011.

The other key organizer of the original celebration, then-Delaware State College President Dr. Luna Mishoe, died in 1989 after leading the school for 27 years.

Dover City Council was not alone in refusing to recognize the holiday; several states declined to recognize the holiday on the state level for another decade. The final holdout, New Hampshire, didn't recognize the holiday on the state level until 1999.

Monday’s keynote speaker was Delaware’s Labor Secretary of Labor Karryl Hubbard, who took the opportunity to connect Delaware’s acute labor shortage to Dr. King’s involvement in a sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis at the time of his assassination.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.