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Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King Jr's. visit, speech in Grosse Pointe

Posted at 6:04 AM, Jan 16, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-16 06:04:39-05

GROSSE POINTE, MI (WXYZ) — In front of Grosse Pointe South High School on Fisher Road sits a historic plaque marking the day Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the school.

Nearly 3000 people packed the school's gymnasium as King delivered his "The Other Americas" speech.

Diana Hicks was working and living in Grosse Pointe at the time and recalls Dr. King's visit. She said the Alabama preacher wasn't welcomed into the predominantly white suburb with completely open arms.

"I remember the controversy. There [were] those who were extremely upset because Grosse Pointe is kind of a private community and people don't want to be focused on," she said.

The city of Detroit had just gone through the Summer Race Riots of 1967. Houses, cars, and businesses were burning to the ground and the National Guard was called in to help restore law and order.

Around the same time, the Grosse Pointe Human Rights Council voted 5-2 in favor of bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Grosse Point. The school board then secured a $1 million insurance policy on Grosse Pointe South High School to have the speech held there.

Protesters lined the streets while King was escorted to the school. Many were concerned about his safety and the police chief at the time sat on Dr. King's lap to shield him from any threats.

"When I look back on it now I think what a gentile speech it was compared to what goes on today. It was just getting people to talk to each other to relate to each other and to treat each other with respect," Diana recalls.

The chair that Dr. King sat in sits in the principal's office of Grosse Pointe South. Above that is a photo of Dr. King speaking in the gymnasium that day.

"And to think there was a critical mass of people that said we need to bring him here despite the opposition," Grosse Pointe South Principle Moussa Hamka said. "People wanted to bring him to Grosse Pointe."