ST. LOUIS–As the nation pauses to remember the life and work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the national holiday in his honor, we look back at some of the visits he made to St. Louis.
The Missouri Historical Society says Dr. King may have made as many as nine visits to the area between 1954 and 1964.
In 1954, he addressed a gathering of the National Baptist Convention in St. Louis. He returned three years later on April 10, 1957, for a Freedom Rally at Kiel Auditorium organized by the Citizens Group of Greater St. Louis, a coalition of ministerial groups. His visit came on the heels of the Montgomery bus boycott.
“It’s good to be in St. Louis, for I’m happy to see the progress that has been made and that is being made in the area of human relations. In a quiet and dignified manner, integration has moved on amazingly well and this city is to be commended. Certainly the Deep, the cities in the Deep South have a great deal to learn from a city like St. Louis. It proves that integration can be brought into being without a lot of trouble, that it can be done smoothly and peacefully. This city is to be commended for that.”
He returned in December of that year and then in 1960, for a visit to United Hebrew Temple where he addressed “The Future of Integration”.
In 1964, Dr. King came to the campus of Saint Louis University, months after the “I Have A Dream” speech and just days before he would be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. He spoke at the West Pine Gym.
“He just had a rhythm and a way of speaking that was mesmerizing, I mean you were so captivated by it,” Alice Lemp, a SLU graduate who attended the event said in a YouTube video created by the school to mark the occasion.
“We came out of it feeling like we could just move mountains,” Betty Patton, another SLU grad who was there said in the video.