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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s ties to South Carolina

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Martin Luther King, Jr. addresses a crowd to encourage voter participation in Kingstree, SC on May 8, 1966 | Photo courtesy of The State Newspaper Photograph Archive at Richland Library.

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In celebration and honor of the life + legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and in observance of MLK Day, we’ve learned of his ties to the Lowcountry and the state of South Carolina. Here’s what you should know about the Nobel Peace Prize-winning minister who worked tirelessly until his death to combat racial inequality through nonviolent resistance.

MLK in Columbia

○ Dr. King was in attendance at an honorary banquet at the Township Auditorium in Columbia, SC on September 28, 1959. While in town for a few days, he delivered an address at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at the Township. Read more here.

MLK at Emanuel AME Church

In 1962, the civil rights leader visited the historically Black church, Mother Emanuel AME, to speak to the congregation about the importance of registering to vote. There were about 3,000 people in attendance. The official Martin Luther King, Jr. Center Twitter account tweeted about it here.

MLK’s speech in Charleston

○ Dr. King visited and spoke in Charleston on July 30 in 1967. In the speech, he was quoted saying, “We live in America. We have to face the fact that, honestly, racial discrimination is present. So don’t get complacent. We made some strides. We made some progress here and there and it hasn’t been enough. It hasn’t been fast enough. We still have a long, long, way to go.”

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Dr. King in Columbia, SC to address a meeting held in his honor at the Township Auditorium on September 30, 1959. | Photo courtesy of The State Newspaper Photograph Archive at Richland Library.

MLK’s “lost tapes” in Summerville

Forty-five years later in Summerville, the family of a newspaper reporter from The State newspaper in Columbia found a recording of the Charleston speech from MLK’s visit in the summer of 1967.

The 40 minute recording was found in a box and included the civil rights leader saying, “[They] said I came to Charleston to start a riot, been here a week organizing. As much as I talk about love, how could anybody accuse me of organizing a riot?” Read more here.

Dr. King in Kingstree

○ On May 8, 1966, MLK spoke at Tomlinson High School to encourage voter participation in elections. He urged voters in the state to protect + expand civil rights with a “march on the ballot boxes”. Read more about his visit here.

Recording of MLK in Charleston

○ In 2019, a rare recording of an MLK speech speaking in Charleston sold for $68,000 in a civil rights auction in New York City. The speech includes Dr. King encouraging the crowd to help build the Black community. Read more here.

Read more about the history and life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. here.