Melnea A. Cass and Coretta
Scott King are two of the first African American recipients of Northeastern
Mrs. Cass Receiving Honorary Degree
In the spring commencement
of 1969 at the age of 72, Melnea A. Cass was awarded the Doctor of Humanities
degree. Referred to as Roxbury’s First Lady and Elder Stateswoman,
Mrs. Cass was influential and active within the Boston community. She
sat on the Mayor’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Minority
Housing and held membership in the Freedom House. A firm supporter of
civil rights, Mrs. Cass served as president of the Boston branch of
the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People and for
more than ten years held the position of secretary of the United South
End Settlements. She also was vice president of the Harriet Tubman House
and vice president and eventually president of the northeast region’s
National Association of Colored Women’s Club. Her devotion to
the community was recognized by several awards including the first Leslie
B. Cutler Award for community service.
One of the university’s
most notable honorary degree recipients is Coretta Scott King on June
20, 1971. As a leader in peace and civil rights not only did Mrs. King
lead the list of ten honorary degree recipients, but she also served
as the ceremony’s keynote speaker. In the Boston Garden, Mrs.
King addressed more than 4,000 Northeastern graduates and approximately
15,000 invited guests.
After the death of her husband,
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,
Mrs. King increased her involvement within the movement. She produced
the Freedom Concert, a performance that combined prose, poetry, and
music in order to present the history of the civil rights movement.
Mrs. King also was a member of the Board of Directors of the Southern
Christian Leadership Conference and wrote the national best seller,
My Life with Martin Luther King Jr. (Holt Rinehart and Winston, 1969).