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From the Archives: ‘Racism must go,’ Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. told San Diegans in 1957

Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be celebrated in San Diego and across the nation on Monday, Jan. 17. King’s actual birthday is tomorrow, Jan. 15.

Dr. King was no stranger to San Diego.

In the decade before Dr. King was slain by a sniper in Memphis in 1968, he visited San Diego on several occasions.

In 1964 King brought his campaign for civil rights legislation to two local college campuses, San Diego State and California Western University (now Point Loma Nazarene University) and addressed his largest crowds here. In 1962, he met with Black leaders here and gave a speech at Calvary Baptist Church.

Earlier, in 1957, he spoke to an overflow audience of hundreds at Russ Auditorium at San Diego High School, saying the racial struggle in the U.S. still had a long way to go.

(Stories from the U-T archives include outdated racial language and reflect the attitudes of their time.)

From The San Diego Union, Thursday, June 27, 1957:

Integration Stalling Feared By Dr. King

The leader of the Negro bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala, told a local audience last night the Negro’s fight for integration in the South has “come a long, long way but still has a long, long way to go.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. , the speaker, said it would be tragic for integration forces to listen to those who counsel moderation if “moderation means slowing justice.”

“We cannot afford, to slow up,” Dr. King said at a public meeting in Russ Auditorium attended by 850 persons, predominantly Negroes. The meeting was sponsored by the Southeast Ministerial Alliance and the Business and Professional Men’s Group.

The speaker, who is president of the Montgomery Improvement Association, said colored races compose a majority of the world’s population and “must somehow” say to the whites that “colonialism and racism must go.”

“Integration Stalling Feared By Dr. King,” article on a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., published on page A-30 of The San Diego Union, June 27, 1957.

(The San Diego Union)

Speaking without notes, Dr. King said these steps should be taken in the fight for integration:

1. The federal government should be urged to enforce the law.

2. Moderate whites should be urged to take control of the South.

3. Liberalism should be developed in the North, West and East — “More liberal liberalism and not something that is neither hot nor cold but lukewarm.”

4. Strong, courageous Negro leadership is needed.

Dr. King urged his audience to become “maladjusted” to current civilization to the extent that they oppose mob rule, segregation and militarism. He cited Christ, Lincoln and Jefferson as examples of “maladjusted” persons.

Dr. King, who was given a standing ovation before and after his talk, was introduced by Dr. C. Wayne Love, pastor of Bethel Memorial Church. The invocation was by Dr. Stanley S. McKee, pastor of the First Methodist Church.

Among those on the stage were Dist. Atty. Keller, vice Mayor Curran, Chairman Austin of the county Board of Supervisors and Dr. Wayne Neal, executive secretary of the San Diego Council of Churches.



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