Spring Hill College Commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail

Spring Hill College kicked off its “Black History on The Hill” series by commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” A special video presentation has been created featuring students, faculty and staff reading excerpts from the letter.

Spring Hill’s integration efforts earned the respect of King, who mentioned the moral significance of the College’s initiatives in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail.” Written on April 16, 1963, King’s letter was not an essay but an indictment against the white southern church, in which he expressed his disappointment in the leadership. However, in the letter, King cited Spring Hill College for its leadership in the civil rights movement. In paragraph 33 he stated, “I commend the Catholic leaders of this state for integrating Spring Hill College several years ago.”

Watch the video below:

E. Joseph Lee, Ph.D., President of Spring Hill College said, “We are very proud of our Civil Rights heritage here at Spring Hill. We are grateful for the leadership of the Jesuits and the church in upholding the dignity of all human beings while condemning immoral and unjust practices. Our Jesuit tradition of “cura personalis,” compels us to have respect for all that makes up each individual. This shows in how we care for our students, families and our community.”

Spring Hill was the first College in the state of Alabama to integrate. In September of 1954, eight African Americans quietly joined the student body and, without any unnecessary disturbance of any kind, changed the campus forever. Included among them were Mary Andrea Abrams ’57, Patricia Blackmon ’58, Robert Buchanan ’57, Elbert LaLande ’57, Cecilia Mitchell ’58, Julia Ponquinette ’58, and Mrs. Fannie Motley, who entered in the spring of 1955. In 1956, Motley received her degree, making history as the first African American to graduate from an institution of higher learning in the state. 

This month, the College will take a deeper look into the lives of the students who integrated the College as a tribute to their history and legacies.


Founded in 1830, Spring Hill College is the oldest Catholic college in the Southeast and the third oldest Jesuit college in the United States. Spring Hill combines the Jesuit tradition of excellence in education and a commitment to caring for the whole person – mind, body and spirit – with innovative educational experiences. Located in Mobile, Ala., Spring Hill’s mission is to form leaders engaged in learning, faith, justice and service for life. As a result, Spring Hill students are engaged, inspired and transformed by their experiences.

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