Martin Luther King Jr. Day/Date (2024) Mon, Jan 15, 2024 w/ list of Events
June 23, 1963, stands as a pivotal moment in Detroit’s history, marking the day when Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his iconic speech for the first time. This historic event unfolded as a crowd of 125,000 marched with King along Woodward Avenue to Detroit’s convention center, where he passionately addressed the gathering in an event known as The Walk to Freedom.
Joining Dr. King were notable figures such as Rev. C.L. Franklin, father of Aretha Franklin, and Mayor Jerome Cavanagh. The Walk to Freedom emerged as one of the largest and most impactful demonstrations of freedom during that era. Interestingly, the Detroit chapter of the NAACP chose not to participate due to its ultra-conservative stance, as King’s calls for governmental and societal respect and immediate enactment of federal civil rights legislation did not align with the group’s views.
Despite this divergence, the majority of Detroiters supported King’s vision, recognizing Detroit as a fitting location for such a profound speech. In 1963, Dr. King aimed to inspire an end to segregation and discrimination. His dream for Black individuals in Detroit was articulated in the speech, expressing the desire for them to “be able to buy a house or rent a house anywhere that their money will carry them, and they will be able to get a job.”
While historical records do not confirm Berry Gordy’s presence at The Walk to Freedom, the Motown Records founder was moved to release the Detroit version of King’s iconic speech in August 1963. Titled “The Great March to Freedom,” the album was priced at $1.80 wholesale.
The entire country will come together to honor the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, Jan. 15, and in the days before. The civil rights leader is honored every year on the third Monday to honor the impactful changes he pioneered, his monumental work on the civil rights movement, and his expansive community leadership.