A Look Back: MLK, Jr.’s Visits to Cleveland

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CLEVELAND—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. made frequent trips to Cleveland during the 1960s. His visits made history and helped bolster the local civil rights movement.

One of Dr. King's earliest visits here occurred in May of 1963. He spoke to the congregations of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights and Cory United Methodist Church in Cleveland.

He brought a message of non-violence.

The Western Reserve Historical Society has a collection of photographs that document the civil rights leader's visits to Cleveland and now monuments are dedicated to him.

But Pastor Theophilus Caveniss of the Greater Abyssina Baptist Church said don't lift monuments up -- lift people up.

"It's about loving people. It's about doing for people," Pastor Caveniss said.

Pastor Caveniss was among 2,200 people who heard Dr. King speak at a Nobel Peace Prize dinner given in his honor at the Sheraton Cleveland Hotel on March 23, 1965.

Outside the hotel, members of the NAAWP -- The National Association for the Advancement of White People -- protested Dr. King's visit.

"Martin would want to leave a legacy, if I could help somebody as I pass along then my living shall not be in vain," Pastor Caveniss added.

It was the 'march to the ballot box' and the 'get out the vote' drives that brought Dr. King to Cleveland in July and October of 1967.

He spoke to large crowds at Rockefeller Park and in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood.

He worked to register voters and urged black Clevelanders to vote as Carl Stokes campaigned to become the first African American mayor of a major American city.

Dr. King spoke to a small group of Clevelanders early in 1968.

He was assassinated April 4 that year, less than a week before his next scheduled return to Cleveland.

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