On July 30, 1967, during violent times for America at home and abroad, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to Charleston to deliver an impassioned speech on behalf of nonviolence.
It was the height of the Vietnam war, when casualties were heavy on both sides. The day of King's visit also came a week after racial rioting in Detroit and rioting earlier that month in Newark. What the civil right leader had to say was as blunt as it was heart-felt.
"I'm not here to kill anybody," King told the packed crowd at the old County Hall. "I'm not going to kill anybody in America or in Vienam, either."
Addressing the urban rioting that was still reverberating in the news the day of his speech, King said:
"I'm not going to preach a philosophy of 'Burn, baby, burn!' I'm going to say, 'Build, baby, build! Organize, baby, organize!'"
The next year, in Memphis, where he had gone in support of the city's striking and mostly black sanitation workers, King was assassinated.
Dr. King (in first two images above) speaks before a full house in County Hall (image at right). The scenes are from Image Research Collections' copy of a video by Columbia TV station WIS that recorded King's Charleston visit 49 years ago.
To honor Dr. King, Charleston hosting cluster of events
The 44th Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration that began last week and continues this week is sponsored by the YWCA of Greater Charleston and the City of Charleston.
- On Sunday at 3 p.m., Morris Street Baptist Church will hold an ecumenical service that is open to the public. The church is at 25 Morris St., downtown. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder will give the keynote address at the service, which is being sponsored by the YWCA of Greater Charleston. Holder will receive the annual Harvey Gantt Triumph Award. The Rev. Joe Darby, the AME Church’s presiding elder for the district that includes the Charleston area, will also receive the Gantt award. U.S. Rep. James E. Clyburn will present the awards. Clyburn, not incidentally, was on the stage at County Hall on July 30, 1967, as Dr. King spoke (see article above).
- On King's official birthday, Monday. starting at 11 a.m., Mayor John Tecklenburg will be the grand marshal leading a national-holiday parade from Burke High School to Marion Square.
- Following the parade, at 12:30 p.m., is the Youth Poetry Slam at the College of Charleston's Science Center at 202 Calhoun St. There are cash prizes of $100, $50 and $25 that will go to the top three poetry contestants. The event is open to the public and free.
- At a breakfast at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday at the Charleston Marriott Hotel, keynote speaker Dara Richardson-Heron, CEO of YWCA USA, will present Joseph P. Riley Jr. Vision Awards to Anita Zucker, CEO of InterTech, and her late husband, Jerry Zucker, founder of the Charleston-based company, and to Charleston teenager Katie Stagliano , an advocate against child hunger.