As thousands across the nation commemorate the 50 year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, DC, a local church also honored the legendary civil rights leader and his trip to the city of Brotherly Love.
In October of 1963, two months after the March on Washington, Dr. King spoke at two Philadelphia churches. He first spoke at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, marking his first speech in Philly. Later that day, Dr. King spoke at the Salem Baptist Church in Jenkintown.
Realizing the historical significance of Dr. King’s visit, officials at Salem Baptist saved not only the recording of his speech, but also the church bulletins from that day.
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During this morning’s service the church played that exact recording from Dr. King to nearly 750 parishioners while handing out copies of the original church bulletin. Parishioners also held signs that read, “I am a man,” the famous slogan carried by participants in the March on Washington.
Betty Hall says she was there 50 years ago when Dr. King delivered his historic speech.
“He walked past me with the secret service men. I was ever so happy 50 years ago,” Hall told NBC10’s Monique Braxton. “To hear that voice was wonderful.”
Oscar Vance says King’s visit brought changes to this part of Pennsylvania.
“I got my job as first black detective in the county,” said Vance.
Noella Lyles' grandfather was a friend and seminary classmate of King's. She says his words struck a chord.
“I was thinking about economic disparities with recent college graduates. It's difficult to get jobs even though you're feeling qualified and talented enough,” said Lyles.
As they concluded this memorable day, the congregation locked arms and sang “We Shall Overcome” -- a song that brought hope during the harsh days of segregation.
In January, the church says they plan to honor other civil rights trailblazers who marched in Washington 50 years ago.