On June 23, 1963, an estimated 125,000 people carrying signs and singing “We Shall Overcome” marched down Detroit’s Woodward Avenue. The march, which was the country’s largest civil rights demonstration at that time, ended at Cobo Hall where the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. introduced his famous “I have a Dream” speech. Two months later, King stood on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, and delivered a similar speech that became one of most powerful and memorable in American history.
The Reverend C. L. Franklin, the father of Aretha Franklin, helped organize the “Walk to Freedom”, inviting the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. to visit Detroit and lead the march which would include many prominent Detroiters as well such as labor leader Walter P. Reuther and Mayor Jerome P. Cavanagh.
According to the Detroit Free Press, the Detroit Council for Human Rights initiated the demonstration as a way to remember the racial violence that had occurred on Belle Isle 20 years earlier.
King had been to Detroit as a child. His father, Rev. Martin King, Sr., would preach at Second Baptist Church in the 1940s, said LaNesha Gale DeBardelaben, director of archives and libraries at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
Michigan Historical Calendar, Clarke Historical Library at Central Michigan University.
Sanjana Malviya, This Week In Michigan History, June 22, 2008, B.4