54 years after MLK’s death, Wilmington keeps striving to honor his legacy

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. appearing at the March on Washington held in Washington, DC on August, 28, 1963.

Many people know the words of Civil Rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, but not many know that on the day of his assassination, he was originally scheduled to speak in Wilmington.

King, a prominent member of the Civil Rights Movement and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, was set to make an appearance at a voter registration rally being held at Williston Senior High School for North Carolina gubernatorial candidate, Dr. Reginald Hawkins.

Excerpt from The Wilmington Star (Source: NHC Public Library)

Two days prior to the event, King notified local leaders that the Wilmington trip would have to be canceled so he could remain in Memphis to aid hundreds of sanitation workers who were striking for better pay and safer working conditions.

King was fatally shot while staying at the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968.

Though our city never got the chance to hear King speak, we continue to honor his legacy and his words by working to build a better future for Wilmington — one that’s more equitable and just for all.

That’s why City Council unanimously voted on Aug. 18, 2020, to adopt the Rise Together initiative to ensure that Wilmington is a community where every person is valued and shares in the same opportunities for prosperity and quality of life regardless of color, class, or creed.

Generations in our community have worked to address the wounds of our past. The City has made strides, of which we can be proud, including major annual investments in community partnerships to address systemic needs in our midst. Yet much work remains to be done.

The Rise Together initiative will allow us to (1) better understand these ongoing challenges, (2) reflect on the progress we have made, (3) identify the unfinished work, and (4) develop a constructive response that involves our entire community, from local government to the non-profit sector and our business community.

This offers an opportunity for us to unite as a community. Despite our differences, we are still neighbors and share in common this special place we call home.

As we continue this work, we remember MLK’s words: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?”

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