Louisville might not be the first place to come to mind when thinking about Martin Luther King Jr., but he has more connections to Derby City (and Kentucky at large) than you might think.
Dr. King’s brother, A.D. King was a pastor in Louisville at the Zion Baptist Church. He began serving as a pastor at the church in 1965, and led protests to seek open housing for African Americans. Dr. King visited River City at least three times to see his brother.
Following the assassination of his brother in 1968, A.D. King left Zion Baptist and returned to Atlanta.
The March on Frankfort
Dr. King delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963, but he also led a march on a different capitol city the following year.
In perhaps his most influential trip to Kentucky, Dr. King led the March on Frankfort in March 1964. Alongside Georgia Davis Powers and Jackie Robinson, an estimated 10,000 Kentuckians marched on the state capitol. This led to the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966 — and A.D. King was invited to its signing.
King’s 1967 visit to UofL
Just a year before his death, Dr. King made another notable stop in Derby City. The University of Louisville’s Brandeis School of Law invited Dr. King to speak ahead of a meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference that was taking place in town.
When King arrived, the law school’s auditorium couldn’t contain the crowd. Onlookers bunched around windows, just to catch a glimpse of him. The year had seen demonstrations on racial discrimination in Louisville’s housing market, and King’s remarks focused on the issue.
His visit + speech made an impact. Later that year, the Board of Alderman (similar to today’s Metro Council) approved an open housing ordinance, making Louisville the first city in the South to pass such a measure.