On Monday, Jan. 18, the nation will pause to remember the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the continuing struggle for equality. The Civil Rights icon would have turned 92 this year.
The power in King’s masterful oratory, especially his remarkable landmark speeches, have become etched into the American psyche. He has touched crowds across Wisconsin with his words beyond a dream.
Here’s a chronological report on Dr. King’s various visits to communities in the Badger State during the 1950s and 1960s.
- Aug. 14, 1957 at the Grand Avenue Congregational Church (now the Irish Cultural and Heritage Center), 2133 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee.
- Aug. 20, 1959 spoke before the annual convention of the National Bar Association at what is now the Hilton Milwaukee City Center, 509 W. Wisconsin Ave. in Milwaukee.
- July 25, 1961 at a convocation on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
- March 29, 1962 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
- March 30, 1962 at the Wisconsin Union Theater in Madison.
- Jan. 27, 1964 at the Milwaukee Auditorium (now the Miller High Life Theatre) in Milwaukee.
- October 1965 ̶ Dr. King huddled with associates and supporters at Conference Point Center, a peninsula jutting into the North West side of Geneva Lake. What emerged from the three-day gathering was a blueprint for what became known as the Chicago Freedom Movement.
- Nov. 23, 1965 ̶ Dr. King made stops in Milwaukee and Madison, speaking to students and giving an impromptu press conference at Mitchell International Airport saying “Negroes in 1965 are freer, but they are not yet free.”
- April 27, 1967 at St. Joseph’s Catholic High School in Kenosha.
- May 12, 1967 at the University of Wisconsin Marathon County in Wausau.
The day following Dr. King’s assassination in Memphis, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Chancellor William Sewell suspended classes to mourn the assassinated civil rights leader. That afternoon, on April 5, 1968, a huge gathering of students and faculty met at the campus’s Bascom Hill to participate in memorial services. The Madison Police Department called it “the largest mass demonstration ever held in Madison,” with an estimated total of 15,000 participants.
A similar sized crowd of mourners marched through the streets of downtown Milwaukee. It reportedly remains the largest civil rights demonstration in city history and was among the biggest in the country at the time.