Martin Luther King, Jr. Day 2011

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. After a long struggle, the law was signed in 1983. Observance began in 1986. In 1994, Congress designated the holiday as a national day of service.

The Grosvenor Room dug through the Local History File, which indexes newspapers, magazines, and books published in the 20th and 21st centuries. The earliest reference to Dr. King visiting Buffalo involved a speaking engagement on August 11, 1956. He delivered the featured speech at the 5oth anniversary convention banquet for Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

King’s next appearance was in June, 1960. A story published June 19th entitled, “Dr. King Appeals for Brotherhood” said he spoke before 5,000 attendees for the 55th annual meeting of the National Sunday School and Baptist Training Union Congress in the Memorial Auditorium. The main thrust of his talk was an end to what he called the four greatest evils in the world (in 1960) “segregation, narrow individualism, practical materialism and violence and hatred”.

Dr. King’s  last known appearance in Buffalo according to our file was in November, 1967 just five months before he was assassinated. The University at Buffalo’s Graduate Student Association sponsored his discussion on “The Future of Integration”. He addressed about 2,500 people at Kleinhans Music Hall and called for a “massive action program to bring social justice to this nation.” In the course of his speech, he disapproved of riots as a mean of attaining social justice. “But,” Dr. King said, “disappointment breeds despair; despair leads to bitterness, and where there is bitterness an explosion will develop.”

Sources: “Dr. King Appeals for Brotherhood” Courier Express 6/19/1960: p. 5A

“King Says Negro in Economic Trap” Courier Expess 11/10/1967: p. 1

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