Famous civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis on April 4th 1968. Communities across the United States reacted sharply to this killing and held memorial services commemorating King. On April 8th, hundreds members of the Dearborn community commemorated King by marching across West Dearborn. Given Dearborn’s negative reputation in regards to civil rights issues, the event would have appeared quite unusual to passersby. The march and news coverage of King served as an opportunity for Dearborn to come together and reflect upon its racial attitudes. We here at the Dearborn Historical Museum hope you take the time today to reflect on the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr and the influence he had upon promoting civil rights across the United States.
As the march commemorating Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the largest civil rights demonstrations in the city’s history, the Dearborn Press, Dearborn Guide, and Dearborn Times Herald all covered the event.
Dearbornites at the April 1968 Memorial March for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. carrying signs that say “White Racism — Killed Dr. King” and “Destroy White Racism”.
A young man carries a sign that says “Martin Luther King — The Way of Suffering Love.”
Charlotte Knight carried a sign with “Black Is Beautiful” during the memorial march for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. At the time of the march, she was a sixteen year old sophomore at Fordson High School. As Charlotte was one of the few African Americans at the march, The Dearborn Guide later profiled her participation in the event. Through this news story, it is evident that the death of Dr King was viewed locally as an important moment in the struggle for civil rights.
Following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., minor civil disturbances occurred in Detroit. Michigan Governor George Romney, declared a curfew in Metro Detroit and sent in the National Guard to reduce chances of rioting breaking out. As Detroit papers were on strike at the time of King’s killing, photos and information included in the Dearborn Guide provide valuable documentation about the period.
Even a few weeks after Martin Luther King Jr’s killing, the matter of civil rights was extensively being discussed in Dearborn newspapers. These articles were in the April 18th 1968 Dearborn Guide.
Reactions to the King assassination by leaders of Dearborn, Dearborn Heights, and Inkster were discussed in an April 10th 1918 Dearborn Times Herald article.