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Peraza to Share MLK Insights at History Museum

Peraza to Share MLK Insights at History Museum

Posted: January 17, 2019

When Steve Peraza, assistant professor of history and social studies education, was only 10 years old, a family friend gave him a book that was life-changing—The Autobiography of Malcolm X.

“I didn’t understand all of it at the time, but it made an impression. It introduced me to African American history,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here today if I didn’t read that book.”

Peraza, who grew up surrounded by poverty in East Harlem, New York, said he initially embraced Malcolm X’s call for voluntary racial separation from white society. However, during his undergraduate studies at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, Peraza took a deep dive into the teachings of another famous black leader—Martin Luther King Jr.

“Dr. King had a unifying ideology. His program focused on shared humanity, which I thought would serve a greater number of people,” said Peraza, who completed extensive research and writing on King and is the editor of the Afro-American Historical Association of the Niagara Frontier (AAHANF)’s peer-reviewed journal Afro-Americans in New York Life and History.

Peraza will share his insights into King on Sunday, January 20, at 2:00 p.m. at the Buffalo History Museum as the featured speaker for the AAHANF’s 14th annual Martin Luther King Jr. celebration. His presentation, “Black Buffalo in 1967: Riots, SEEK, and a Speech by Dr. Martin Luther King,” will examine King’s address at Kleinhans Music Hall at the end of 1967. It’s free and open to the public.

“King acknowledged that the Civil Rights Movement had been successful to that point but needed a new direction,” he said. “He began to focus on U.S. poverty, which was impacting so many Americans. He thought making a push to eliminate poverty by moving more toward a class-oriented discussion would advance racial integration. He had the idea that working together across racial divides would lift people up.”

This came at a time when the city of Buffalo was experiencing race riots over policing, Peraza said. Meanwhile, black activist lawmakers instituted the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP), also known as the Search for Education Elevation and Knowledge (SEEK), which made higher education accessible to minority and poor students.

Peraza said King’s integration ideology and call to action are still relevant today.

“Finding an ideology that unifies rather than divides is what the U.S. needs,” Peraza said. “This is why the idea of integration that Dr. King espoused has such transformative power.” 

About Steve Peraza
Peraza, who joined the Buffalo State faculty part time in 2014, earned his doctorate in U.S. history from the University at Buffalo where he specialized in the global perspective of African slavery. His other research interests include race and racism in America, the Harlem Renaissance, and the Civil Rights Movement. As a full-time assistant professor since 2017, he teaches courses on U.S. history, African American history, the African Diaspora, slavery in the Atlantic World, and hip hop.

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