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Morehouse College recently made headlines after several graduates and a faculty member turned their backs on President Biden during his commencement address at the Atlanta school. The college praised the peaceful protest as being in line with its social justice tradition and expressed support for the right to peacefully protest and freely express views. The protest was seen as a critical conversation starter, especially given that Morehouse counts Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. among its most famous alumni. The college commended the class of 2024 for their unity in silent protest and strategic coordination during the event.

The commencement at Morehouse College took place amidst nationwide campus protests against Israel’s war in Gaza, which has resulted in the deaths of thousands of Palestinians. During his address, President Biden acknowledged the protesters’ voices and expressed his support for peaceful nonviolent protest. He emphasized the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and called for an immediate cease-fire to stop the fighting and bring home hostages held by Hamas. Biden’s remarks on the Middle East were part of a broader reflection on American democracy and his role in safeguarding it.

The decision to invite President Biden as the commencement speaker sparked controversy among some faculty and alumni at Morehouse College, with objections raised over the president’s handling of the war in Gaza. Despite calls to rescind the invitation, the commencement proceeded without major disruptions. While most attendees offered subdued applause to Biden, several graduates and one faculty member opted to protest by turning their backs on the president during his speech. One student even draped himself in a Palestinian flag, and nearby protesters carried signs calling for a ceasefire and the protection of children.

In addition to the protests during Biden’s speech, academics on stage unfurled a Congolese flag as a symbol of solidarity with the ongoing civil war in the African country. Racial justice advocates have been pushing for greater attention to the conflict and for American intervention to help end the violence. The presence of these various forms of protest and support signals a growing trend of activism and engagement on college campuses, particularly as students and faculty use their platforms to raise awareness about social justice issues and hold political leaders accountable for their actions.

Morehouse College’s response to the protests underscored its commitment to peaceful assembly and free expression as part of its social justice tradition. The college’s administration stood behind the protesters and emphasized the importance of open dialogue and activism. By supporting the class of 2024 in their organized, nonviolent protest, Morehouse showcased its dedication to fostering critical conversations and empowering students to enact change. The events at the commencement reflected a broader societal trend towards increased political awareness and engagement, particularly among young people who are advocating for justice and equality on multiple fronts.

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