Shaun King shares more than just a last name with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

As a journalist and civil rights leader, Shaun King’s passion for equality and accountability from law enforcement has catapulted him to one of the nation’s foremost leaders in the fight against social injustice.

Shaun King

He will speak about his experiences and activism Jan. 23 in Rackham Auditorium as part of the university’s 31st annual Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium. The purpose of the event is to gather and unite people for the purpose of building the social justice movement, calling for more activism and defining what that means for the 21st century. The program will begin at 5:30 p.m.

“I am a historian by training. I will be trying to give where we are in 2017 some historical context,” he says of his U-M talk. “We have made a lot of assumptions about 2017 and about our future as a nation that I think have been proven false.

“We thought we had progressed much more than we really have. What the past few years have taught us is that we are up against problems just as big as what Dr. King was up against. Some of them are different, but they are just as challenging, and sometimes even more challenging, and systemic and deeply rooted,” he explains.

King, 37, is a senior justice writer at the New York Daily News, a regular political commentator on the Tom Joyner Morning Show and previously was the justice writer for Daily Kos, a political blogging website. He has written extensively about the Black Lives Matter movement, covering discrimination, police brutality, the prison-industrial complex and social justice in the wake of violence in New York, Baltimore, Cleveland, Missouri, South Carolina and other states.

He travels the country delivering messages, but says he particularly enjoys talking to college students.

“I speak at four or five colleges a month, every month of the year. The biggest challenge of speaking to today’s college students is that because they are already so incredibly informed, it can be difficult to tell them something they don’t already know. What I try to do is bring what they already know together and give it historical context,” King says.

“I see it as an opportunity. Young people, throughout history, have always been the lifeblood of every movement for civil and human rights. When I speak to them, I am honored. I know that in my midst are the next leaders who will change the world and make it a better place.”

The event is free and open to the public, but tickets are required. Early bird student tickets are available through Jan. 14 by pick-up at the Michigan Union Ticket Office only. Student IDs are required and tickets are limited to one per person. Tickets are available to students outside of U-M as well.

Tickets will be available to the public, including U-M faculty and staff, Jan. 16-23 at the Michigan Union Ticket Office and by phone at 734-763-8587. Ticket office hours are Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.

For questions about the event, contact the Office of Academic Multicultural Initiatives at or 734-936-1055.