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Jan 25, 2019

(January 19, 2019) Both before he became a household name nationally and after he was a famous public figure, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made trips to Indiana. How those visits during the 1950s and '60s unfolded, where Rev. King stayed and other details, are the focus of our show that aired two days prior to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Martin Luther King with Mennonite theologian Guy Hershberger at Goshen College in 1960. Courtesy the Elkhart Truth.In February 1968, Dr. King spoke at Manchester College in northern Indiana to an "overflow audience," according to the small, private school affiliated with the Church of the Brethren. Now Manchester University, the school describes the speech as Dr. King's "last campus address" before his assassination two months later, in April 1968.

Nearly 10 years earlier, in 1958 when he was a young minister and civil rights leader in the South, 29-year-old Dr. King spoke in downtown Indianapolis at Cadle Tabernacle, a sprawling, Spanish-style structure that served as the site of conventions, religious gatherings, music concerts and a range of other events. Cadle Tabernacle, which was located at Ohio and New Jersey Streets, was demolished during the late 1960s.

In the decade between that speech and the talk at Manchester College near the end of his life, Dr. King periodically visited Indianapolis, often staying with the family of his close friend Rev. Andrew J. Brown (1921-1996), pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church. Rev. Brown, one of Indiana's most prominent civil rights leaders of the era, marched with Dr. King in Selma, Ala., in 1965.

For our exploration of Dr. King's trips to Indiana - which also included a speech at Goshen College in 1960 - our studio guests are:

David Leander WilliamsAccounts about Dr. King's speech at Goshen College, which is affiliated with the Mennonite Church, describe it a "spellbinding lecture." The speech, which he delivered in 1960, occurred about one year after he had traveled to India to study Gandhi's techniques of nonviolence.

At Goshen College, Dr. King discussed nonviolence. He also called on religious leaders to more strongly advocate for civil rights; Dr. King described most churches across the country as "segregated islands."

Susan Hall DotsonBeginning in the mid-1950s, Dr. King began staying at the home of the Brown family during his trips to Indianapolis. According to Rev. Thomas Brown, the family began receiving threatening phone calls around the time of the early visits. So the Browns kept quiet about where Dr King was staying when he came to the Hoosier capital.

Rev. Andrew Brown was active in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), a civil rights advocacy organization; Dr. King served as its first president. Today, Rev. Thomas Brown is president of the Indiana Christian Leadership Conference, an affiliated chapter.

Just as streets have been named in honor of Dr. King in many Indiana cities - including IndianapolisEvansvilleSouth BendGary and Elkhart - a street on the near-eastside of Indy was named Dr. Andrew J. Brown Avenue in 1986. In addition to serving as pastor of St. John's Missionary Baptist Church, which is located on the street named in his honor, Rev. Andrew Brown was one of the primary organizers of Indiana Black Expo during the early 1970s.