WORTHINGTON - In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a woman who personally knew the iconic civil rights activist and followed his legacy toward equality for all people will visit Worthington next week.  

Gwendolyn Middlebrooks, a civil rights activist who was an original member of the Atlanta (Georgia) Student Sit-In Movement, will speak about her life, activism and how she followed the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday in the Fine Arts Theatre on the Minnesota West Community and Technical College Worthington campus. Middlebrooks babysat for Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King’s children. The event is free and open to the public.

“She’s just very much in tune to equality and her experiences certainly mirror all the civil rights things that have been taking place throughout the entire country,” said Le Lucht, director of cultural diversity at Minnesota West. The event is hosted by the college and the Nobles County Integration Collaborative’s Culture Corner.  

An Atlanta resident, Middlebrooks is a longtime member of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Jr. and his father served as co-pastors until King, Jr.’s death in 1968. His funeral was in the same church.

Middlebrooks attended Spelman College, during which time she was jailed twice for picketing the Georgia State Capitol and courthouse. She has since become a professor emeritus at Spelman College and continues to be active in various organizations related to civil and human rights, Lucht said.

Middlebrook’s Tuesday visit will also include a personal meeting with faculty and staff of the Culture Corner, as well as Minnesota West law enforcement students.

“She is planning to talk to (students) about community policing in our diverse society,” Lucht said.

Lucht said the college tries to host an event to honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Black History Month each year. The college has hosted several known activists from the Jackson, Miss., area in the past, but last year’s scheduled event was canceled due to inclement weather, she added.

The opportunity for area residents to meet and hear from an activist from the civil rights-era may be fleeting, as those who actively protested during the 50s and 60s civil rights movement continue to age.

“It’s getting more difficult to come up with people who were involved with the different protests and so forth,” Lucht said.

Approximately 150 seats have already been reserved by various groups, and Lucht asks that any other large groups contact her in advance. She invites other members of the public to hear Middlebrooks speak.

To reserve large group seating, contact Lucht at 372-3423, le.lucht@mnwest.edu; or Jaidy Kolander: 376-3300, jaidy.kolander@isd518.net.