Aug 25, 2010
Commemorate the historic Walk to Freedom on Saturday and march for justice
Saturday will be a great day for those who love freedom and equality, and there will be at least two ways to demonstrate it.
The Michigan Democratic Party is holding its nominating convention on Saturday and Sunday in Detroit’s Cobo Hall, but many delegates, myself included, are going to take a break from the informative caucus meetings to join Rev. Jessie Jackson and a coalition of organizations and union, community, religious and political leaders to march to demand real change for working families and all of America and to commemorate the historic Walk to Freedom led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Detroit in 1963.
The march will step off at 10:30 a.m. at the UAW-Ford National Programs Center, next to Hart Plaza, 151 W. Jefferson Ave., and it ends at Grand Circus Park.
Dr. King was a long and strong supporter of organized labor, and he saw the rights of workers as part of the fight for Civil Rights.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) archivist Bob Garrett, the Detroit march took place when Dr. King was then in the midst of a tour that began that spring of 1963 from California to New York. His Detroit stop proved the tour's biggest success. Police estimated the Freedom Walk crowd at 125,000. The day after the event, The Detroit Free Press labeled it "the largest civil rights demonstration in the nation's history." The walk began at Woodward and Adelaide and continued down Woodward to Cobo Hall. It lasted about an hour and a half, as marchers carried signs and sang songs, such "We Shall Overcome" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
The Detroit Council for Human Rights organized the Walk. The Council's director, Benjamin McFall, and its Chairman, Rev. Clarence L. Franklin, marched in a line with King and former Gov. John B. Swainson. That line also included Detroit Mayor Jerome Cavanaugh, United Auto Workers President Walter P. Reuther and State Auditor General Billie S. Farnum.
At the walk's conclusion, King gave a speech at Cobo Hall. According to the Free Press, approximately 25,000 people attended the speech. They listened as King spoke of non-violence and an end to racial segregation. The June 24, 1963 Free Press report notes that King "ended his speech by telling of a dream." According to the Free Press, King described his dream of whites and blacks "walking together hand in hand, free at last."
In his book King: A Biography, David Levering Lewis states that King repeated the phrase "I have a dream" several times during that Cobo Hall speech. Lewis notes that when King addressed a crowd in Washington, D.C. two months later, he "kept the refrain from the Detroit speech: I have a dream."
Saturday will also mark the day of King's historic Washington speech of August 28, 1963 that became famous as his "I have a dream speech." It was a defining moment in the American civil rights movement. In one sense, however, the seeds of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream were planted in Michigan - in Detroit's Cobo Hall.
See you there.