EAST LANSING, Mich. — Community members and members of the media are reminded that a series of special events will be taking place this Friday, Sept. 24 in honor of Dr. Robert L. Green. Dr. Green was a civil rights leader who fought against racial discrimination in East Lansing and, ultimately, became the first Black person to purchase a home in the community through the use of a realtor using U.S. President John F. Kennedy’s 1962 executive order mandating an end to housing discrimination. He purchased his home at 207 Bessemaur Drive, located in the Pinecrest Neighborhood, along with his wife, Lettie, in 1964.
Dr. Green will be in attendance for this Friday’s special events, and he will be joined by fellow civil rights leaders Ernest Green of the Little Rock Nine and Martin Luther King III, oldest son of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King.
Dedication Ceremonies for Robert L. Green Elementary School and Michigan Historical Marker
A dedication ceremony will be hosted by the East Lansing Public Schools on Friday, Sept. 24 at 9:30 a.m. for the recently renamed Robert L. Green Elementary School, 1811 Pinecrest Drive. View the press release from ELPS for more information. Following the school dedication, participants will be invited to join in a march down to Dr. Green’s former home at 207 Bessemaur Drive for the City of East Lansing’s dedication of a new Michigan historical marker at 11:30 a.m. The historical marker is being installed in the park land adjacent to Dr. Green’s former home.
“An Evening with Dr. Robert L. Green” at the Wharton Center
The community is also invited to “An Evening with Dr. Robert L. Green” on Friday, Sept. 24 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts, 750 E. Shaw Lane. The program, presented by the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Mid-Michigan and One Book, One Community, will feature Dr. Green’s reflections on the Civil Rights Movement, and he will be joined by Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist. Following the program, community members are invited to stay for a performance by the MSU College of Music Wind Symphony at 8 p.m. Those who plan to attend are reminded that all individuals are required to wear masks inside MSU campus buildings. Parking information is available here. The program is free, but guests will need to pay to park.
Special thanks to Cinnaire, the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union, Case Credit Union, AT&T and LAFCU for sponsoring the Dr. Green events.
About Dr. Robert L. Green
Dr. Robert L. Green is a civil rights pioneer and was a close friend and colleague of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He served as the education director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference from 1965-1967 and as a consultant for many of the nation’s largest school districts. He is a nationally known scholar and an expert on education, urban development and issues related to diversity, and he continues to fight for social justice and educational equity today. In 1964, while serving as a professor at MSU and a member of the East Lansing Human Relations Commission, realtors blocked Dr. Green from buying a home in East Lansing despite the 1948 U.S. Supreme Court decision ending state enforcement of restrictive housing covenants. Dr. Green filed a complaint with the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, which had been empowered with “general authority to investigate alleged racial discrimination” by Michigan’s 1963 constitution. The investigation of his complaint led the Michigan Civil Rights Commission to order a local realty company to sell to Dr. Green. Not wanting the company to profit from him, Dr. Green purchased a different home at 207 Bessemaur Drive in East Lansing. Dr. Green’s high-profile case spurred local advocacy against housing discrimination, which ultimately led to the adoption of a fair housing ordinance by the East Lansing City Council on April 8, 1968 – four days after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Green’s children integrated Pinecrest Elementary School, which has now been renamed the Robert. L. Green Elementary School by a unanimous vote of the East Lansing Public Schools Board of Education. Dr. Green has also published a memoir, “At the Crossroads of Fear and Freedom: The Fight for Social and Educational Justice,” which relates previously untold stories about major civil rights campaigns that helped put an end to voting rights violations and Jim Crow education.