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Dr. King first gave his "I Have a Dream" speech in Michigan

June 23, 1963 is an important date in Michigan history. It's the day Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous speech that would ring through the annals of time.

DETROIT, Mich. – Dr. King is most revered for his role in the March on Washington in 1963, where he delivered his “I Have a Dream”, but it wasn’t the first time he had spoken those famous four words.

Two months before King spoke in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he gave another impassioned speech at the Walk to Freedom in Detroit on June 23. The Walk to Freedom was the largest civil rights demonstration to date at the time and was called “one of the most wonderful things that has happened in America” by King himself.

Michigan's Walk to Freedom commemorated 20 years since the Detroit race riot of 1943 when over two dozen people were killed and many more injured. King was joined by Rev. C.L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin, and the Mayor of the city Jerome Cavanagh.

Over 125,000 people demonstrated with Dr. King down Woodward Avenue to Cobo Arena (TCF Center). The Walk to Freedom's main purpose "was to speak out against segregation and the brutality that met civil rights activists in the South while at the same time addressing concerns of African Americans in the urban North: inequality in hiring practices, wages, education, and housing."

Another notable connection to Michigan – During the tragic day of Dr. King's assassination, Dr. William Anderson of Detroit was on the phone with Coretta Scott King when it happened.

“She used to call me Andy,” Anderson said.

“I was at home in Detroit, sitting with my wife and kids, and the message came on the air, that Martin had been assassinated in Memphis by an unknown assailant. I was on the phone, talking to Coretta. She said, ‘Wait a minute, Andy — something has happened to Martin.'

"She never came back to the phone.”


Dr. King's legacy reminds us of the sanctity of our right to vote – that without constant vigilance, democracy is still under threat. Voting rights must be protected. This isn't a partisan issue. It's a civil rights issue.


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