Office of the Spokesman
Martin Luther King III, U.S. Representative John Lewis, and Herbie Hancock to Lead U.S. Department of State Commemoration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King's 1959 India Journey
The U.S. Department of State will support February 2009 celebrations in India to commemorate the tour by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 50 years ago to study Mahatma Gandhi. This tour deeply influenced the American civil rights movement. The delegation, including Martin Luther King, III; civil rights movement veteran U.S. Representative John Lewis; and legendary jazz musician Herbie Hancock, along with other distinguished Americans, will meet with counterparts in India to underscore the enduring importance of the King and Gandhi legacies.Released on January 16, 2009
The delegation will meet in New Delhi with government leaders, social activists, and youth, and will travel around India to some of the principal sites associated with Mahatma Gandhi’s work. There will be two special musical performances featuring Herbie Hancock and others organized by the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz. In Chennai, Indian musicians will conduct a special tribute, including performances of music on the theme of non-violence created by leading composer A.R. Rahman, widely acclaimed for writing the score to the current hit film “Slumdog Millionaire,” and a dramatic reading by film actor and director Kamal Haasan.
In February 1959, Dr. King and Coretta Scott King traveled throughout India in search of the roots of the nonviolent social action movement for Indian independence, studying Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals and meeting his followers around the country. Upon their return to the United States, Dr. King and other leaders of the civil rights movement drew on Gandhi’s ideas to transform American society.