On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, many will recognize the life and legacy left by the minister and civil rights activist. As an influential figure in the civil right movement, King was committed to make the dream for a more understanding and progressive American reality.
One of the demonstrations led by King was the Detroit Walk to Freedom – a mass march that brought national attention to the issues black citizens faced when it came to social treatment, hiring practices, wages, education and housing. The Detroit Walk to Freedom took place June 23, 1963 – in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Detroit race riot of 1943 – and included over 125,000 marchers, making it the largest civil rights demonstration of its time.
In addition to King, many other local and nationally recognized figures participated in the demonstration including the Rev. C. L. Franklin, who was a member of the Detroit Council for Human Rights and father of singer Aretha Franklin, former Michigan Governor John Swainson and former Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanagh. The march started on Woodward Avenue and ended at Cobo Hall (now Cobo Center), where many gathered to listen to speeches conducted by the several civil rights leaders in attendance.
One of the speeches given that day was by King, a prelude to his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, which would be given a few weeks later in Washington D.C. In his Detroit address, King made many of the same points he later did in Washington D.C, speaking about his dream for a more equal and just society. The speech was recorded by Motown Records, and all of the royalties from the record were given to the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
In honor of King and the Detroit Walk of Freedom, the Central United Methodist Church is hosting a demonstration for “Jobs, Peace & Justice.” The event will begin at noon with a rally at the Central United Methodist Church, followed by a march through downtown Detroit, concluding with a community meal and a display of poetry and music at St. John’s Episcopal Church. The Rev. Bernard Lafayette, King’s former assistant and friend, will be a guest speaker at “Jobs, Peace, & Justice.”