FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – Hundreds of thousands celebrated the 50th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech in Washington on Wednesday, but multiple organizations held their own celebration in Fort Wayne.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made an appearance in Fort Wayne 50 years ago, on June 5, 1963. Three prominent Fort Wayne leaders, Hannah Stith, founder of the Fort Wayne African and African-American Historical Museum, Edward N. Smith, founder and publisher of “Frost Illustrated” weekly newspaper, and Larry Lee, an MLK historian, took the very same stage Dr. King stood on when he spoke in Fort Wayne, at the former Scottish Rite Theater, and shared their memories and experiences of that time Wednesday night.
The University of Saint Francis Performing Arts Center is where USF, the Fort Wayne Urban League, and Martin Luther King Club of Fort Wayne held "Sharing the Legacy" a tribute to Dr. King's dream.
A panel discussion, along with TV clippings from the original March on Washington, and the original 17-minute long "I Have A Dream" broadcast were featured in the celebration. Bennie Edwards, President of the Martin Luther King Club of Fort Wayne, says it doesn’t seem like it’s been 50 years since the iconic speech.
“Time has passed really fast, as far as the past 50 years. We’ve made great strides and have achieved a lot of advancements in those 50 years. Several people of color have reached new heights they may have never achieved if it weren’t for the struggle of those during the Civil Rights movement,” said Edwards.
Smith says he moved to Fort Wayne in 1962, and saw Dr. King speak at the theater in 1963. Smith says he even traveled to Atlanta and bought one of Dr. King’s first recordings. He says Dr. King paved the way for the Civil Rights Movement.
"Martin Luther King is a name and position that can bring us all alive again because there are a lot of young folks around here wearing their pants down around their knees that forgot about King. There were folks that were suffering and dying in the sit-ins and the bus riders, but Dr. King was the front of that as far as being the one to do the talking,” said Smith.
When asked if Dr. King would happy with the way things are now, 50 years later, both Edwards and Smith had different responses.
“No, he wouldn’t be happy,” said Smith. "They're still taking voting rights from us, still jobs are hard to get, we don't do business, and there are various monopolies that are very subtle in their discrimination."
“America has achieved a lot in the past 50 years towards equality and equal rights,” said Edwards. “But, as we know, there’s a lot to be achieved and a lot we need to do to make the actual reality of the American dream possible.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his historic “I Have A Dream” speech on Aug. 28, 1963, just months after visiting Fort Wayne. The PBS documentary, “The March,” which previewed in Fort Wayne on Sunday, made its national debut Wednesday night at 9:00 on PBS 39. An encore presentation will air Thursday, Aug 29, on PBS at 9 p.m.
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