AcademicsResearchOfficesSportsArtsMap & Tour
From the Spring Issue Online Exclusives Fromt your Alumni Association Looking toward the Bicentennial
Ohio Today

Telling moments in history
Alumnus recounts role in civil rights movement

Alvin Adams

Watch Alvin Adams describe the experience of hearing Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.

Quicktime: Lo-Res | Hi-Res

By Jaime Ciavarra

Al Adams knows history. Thought to be the first African-American to earn a journalism degree from Ohio University, he experienced it firsthand as he covered civil rights milestones for the black press, interviewing leaders from Malcolm X to Martin Luther King Jr.

"We are surrounded by history all the time," he says, "and we don't always realize it."

Adams, BSJ '59, took his first job after college at The Chicago Daily Defender, the nation's first black daily newspaper, just a few weeks before sit-ins in the South helped ignite the civil rights movement. The small-paper atmosphere gave Adams big opportunities. In a short time, he went from copyediting wire stories to covering marches and rallies.

On a blistering summer day, Adams covered an event for Jet, a black newsmagazine in Chicago, that drew national attention: admission of the first black students to the University of Alabama. Other assignments were equally noteworthy. He interviewed one of the first black congressmen, Adam Clayton Powell Jr.; Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad; and evangelist Billy Graham. His 1962 reporting of Los Angeles police violence for Jet prompted a complimentary letter from Malcolm X. Less than three years later, Adams covered the black leader's assassination.

In 1963, Adams sat in a sea of activists as King delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a day that Adams, and the world, will never forget. Assigned to write an article on an earlier speaker participating in the March on Washington, Adams busily tried to complete his story as King mesmerized the crowd with his booming voice.

"There was something about the way he spoke," he says. "It was fascinating to see the crowd swell."

Now retired, Adams is co-founder of the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Morgan County, Ohio, which documents the history of multicultural families and provides educational services. Visit it online at

Jaime Ciavarra, BSJ '03, is a student writer for University Communications and Marketing.

Eliminating allergy triggers

Coping with information overload

Treating and preventing sports injuries

Balancing your budget

Layne Longfellow
  Following the poet

Diane Miller
  Tracking the
  Underground Railroad

'Cat Facts

Alumni Book Reviews

Winter 2003

Fall 2002

Spring 2002


  Ohio University - Athens, Ohio 45701 - Tel: (740) 593-1000


Please send your questions or comments about this Web site to:

Copyright 1994-2003 Ohio University