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Sunday, January 16

Martin Luther King Jr. had special ties to Windsor

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SELECT wp_posts.*, MATCH (wp_posts.post_title,wp_posts.post_content) AGAINST ('Martin Luther King Jr. had special ties Windsor Breadcrumb Trail Links Local news Publication date: January 14, 2022 • 11 minutes ago • 4 minutes reading • join conversation American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. speaks March 14, 1963 Cleary Auditorium, which became Cleary International Center and now part St. Clair College. Photo Spike Bell /special star article content Martin Luther King Jr. needed help, so he came Windsor. Commercial ad has not been uploaded yet, but its article continues below. article content Enamored Windsor\'s relative racial harmony, peaceful approach its&hellip;') as score FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND ( wp_posts.post_date <= '2022-01-16 01:42:36' ) AND wp_posts.ID NOT IN (656725) AND wp_posts.post_type IN ('post', 'page') AND ((wp_posts.post_status = 'publish' OR wp_posts.post_status = 'inherit')) AND MATCH (wp_posts.post_title,wp_posts.post_content) AGAINST ('Martin Luther King Jr. had special ties Windsor Breadcrumb Trail Links Local news Publication date: January 14, 2022 • 11 minutes ago • 4 minutes reading • join conversation American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. speaks March 14, 1963 Cleary Auditorium, which became Cleary International Center and now part St. Clair College. Photo Spike Bell /special star article content Martin Luther King Jr. needed help, so he came Windsor. Commercial ad has not been uploaded yet, but its article continues below. article content Enamored Windsor\'s relative racial harmony, peaceful approach its&hellip;') ORDER BY score DESC LIMIT 0, 6

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Martin Luther King Jr. needed help, so he came to Windsor.

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Enamored with Windsor’s relative racial harmony, the peaceful approach of its civil rights workers, and the city’s famous Emancipation Day festival, the freedom fighter made several trips to Windsor to network and give speeches.

At Windsor, King saw his dream of a better world take shape.

“Windsor wasn’t the perfect place in the world, but he got to see his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech in action,” said Windsor-born filmmaker Preston Chase. “He was able to see his speech in action walking down Ouellette or in Jackson Park.”

A new report from the University of Windsor examines the special ties that King, who will celebrate the annual American holiday that bears his name on Monday, had with Windsor.

The report, called Honoring Dr. King, in Windsor, in Education and in Historical Narrative, was scheduled to be published in the university’s Daily News on Friday.

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“What’s important to recognize is the black history in Canada, and specifically the unique position that Windsor-Essex has,” said author Lila Happy, a fourth-year political science student majoring in law and politics.

“Canada was referred to as the North Star in terms of the descendants of the Underground Railroad, and even Dr. King spoke of this when he referred to Canada as the word for heaven when it came to black people.”

His report focuses on King’s visit to Windsor in 1956 for the Emancipation Day celebrations.

“It’s important that Dr. King came to Windsor because of the black heritage that this city has,” Happy said. “Another aspect is that Windsor is a very strategic location because of its proximity to Detroit, so it allowed a lot of Americans to join in the celebrations as well, which really made it a transnational event.”

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Civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a guest speaker on August 7, 1956, at the Emancipation Day celebrations in Jackson Park.  From left, discussing the program, are Russel Small of Windsor, chairman of the Emancipation committee;  King;  Rev. Theodore S. Boone of Detroit;  and Walter Perry, founder and organizer of the Emancipation Celebration.
Civil rights leader the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was a guest speaker on August 7, 1956, at the Emancipation Day celebrations in Jackson Park. From left, discussing the program, are Russel Small of Windsor, chairman of the Emancipation committee; King; Rev. Theodore S. Boone of Detroit; and Walter Perry, founder and organizer of the Emancipation Celebration. photo by file photo /Windsor Star

“It really served as a gathering for all nations and all people to come together and really talk about peacebuilding and these social justice issues that were going on.”

Elise Harding-Davis, a local historian and African-Canadian heritage consultant, said King made his first visit to Windsor three years earlier.

“When Martin Luther King first came here in 1953, he was not the Martin Luther King that we all revere,” he said. “He was a young black preacher looking for help. The Emancipation Celebration wasn’t just a big fun ride. It was a process of networking freedom fighters. All the way from slavery to the emancipation celebrations of the mid-1900s, there was a group of men and women who were very involved in politics, civil rights. We even send money to support some of the activities in Birmingham.”

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Chase, whose great-uncle Walter Perry founded the Emancipation Day festival in 1932, said that event was initially the main draw for King.

It was Martin Luther King Jr. and he was in Windsor talking about civil rights.

It was a celebration of the abolition of slavery by the British Empire on August 1, 1834. It was also one of the largest festivals on the continent, temporarily doubling the population of Windsor, attracting prominent politicians and activists, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and artists like the Supremes and Stevie Wonder.

The festival and its creator are the focus of Chase’s documentary film, Mister Emancipation: The Walter Perry Story.

“At Windsor it transcended racing,” Chase said. “That was one of the most important things. It was a welcome break from Jim Crow for Black America. Its civil rights leaders could speak openly to diverse crowds without interruption. There were no horses. There were no hoses. Nothing like that was happening in Windsor at the time.”

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Following in the footsteps of mentors such as Benjamin Mays, Archibald Carey and the Reverend William Borders, who repeatedly visited Windsor, King was the festival’s keynote speaker in 1956.

Harding-Davis, then about eight years old, was in the crowd.

“He was kind enough to stop and talk to me,” he said. “I was in awe. She wasn’t entirely familiar with who he was. But I knew who he was. It was Martin Luther King Jr. and he was in Windsor talking about civil rights.”

She said Canada showed King, who championed nonviolence and civil disobedience to fight racial discrimination, a movement toward change and equality that was largely free from the brutality plaguing his country.

“He also came to talk to civil rights workers here in the Windsor area because of their nonviolent activities with sit-ins and things like that,” Harding-Davis said. “There was a whole group of socially literate people here who were involved in the civil rights movement.”

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Chase said King later returned to address Windsor religious and business leaders at the Cleary Center five months before his famous “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington.

Local photographer Spike Bell was there to capture the historic moment on March 14, 1963.

“There was no peep in that room,” Bell said. “His voice was just amazing. You could have dropped a pin on a rug and heard it. Everyone was stunned, just listening to this man. He had a fantastic voice, a fantastic speech. It’s something I’ll never forget.”

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King hoped to visit Windsor at least one more time in 1967, but it wasn’t meant to be. The festival conflicted with a planned trip to Israel. He sent Perry a telegram apologizing for not being able to attend that year’s Emancipation festival, which was ultimately canceled due to the Detroit riots.

“Please convey to all the good people of Canada how significant this kind of tangible support is to us,” King, who was assassinated on April 14, 1968, said in the telegram. “I will watch with great interest as you progress to sustain the work here in Birmingham.”

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Reference-windsorstar.com

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