The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivers his thunderous speech at Glenville High School on April 26, 1967, saying “We’ve got to organize so effectively and so well and engage in such powerful creative protest that there will not be a power in the world that can stop us.” Photo courtesy of Cleveland Public Library.
As the nation pays tribute to Rev. Dr. Martin L. King today, we thought it only fitting to remember his connection to the city of Cleveland.
As Clevelanders, we know that our city holds a plethora of history including the first city in the nation to have publicly lit streetlights – Public Square; it was once known as the richest community in the world with Millionaire’s Row a.k.a. Euclid Ave as its showcase; and we have darker memories that include the infamous Hough Riots.
We all know who Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was, what he stood for, and we appreciate that most of us get a day off from work in his honor. However, have you ever thought about how strongly connected to Cleveland he actually was?
Dr. King frequently visited Cleveland in the mid-1960’s after the Hough riots aiding community leaders and offering advice on dealing with the city’s racial problems while working feverishly to register black voters and to assist in boosting Carl Stokes’ chances of becoming the first black mayor of an American city.
On April 26, 1967, during his visit to Glenville High School, Dr. King offered this advice to those in attendance, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures.” That quote has become a staple in many African American households.
Dr. King’s efforts in Cleveland proved fruitful when Carl B. Stokes was elected mayor of Cleveland on November 7, 1967, fifty years ago this year.