People in the United States and around the world celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
King played a prominent role in organizing the Civil Rights Movement in the South. His most important contributions to the struggle in Florida occurred in St. Augustine in the summer of 1964.
On June 11, 1964, Dr. King and several other activists were arrested for attempting to integrate the Monson Motor Lodge. When interviewed during his brief incarceration, King pledged to challenge segregation in St. Augustine “even if it takes all summer.”
Martin Luther King in St. Augustine, June 12, 1964
Dan R. Warren, State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, convened a Grand Jury to hear King’s perspective on the situation in the Ancient City. The photograph above shows Dr. King in the backseat of a highway patrol car with a police dog moments after he testified before the Grand Jury about segregation in St. Augustine, a city he referred to as the “most segregated” in America.
Quotes attributed to King appear in Dan R. Warren, If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States’ Rights in St. Augustine, 1964 (University of Alabama, 2008), 95.
Florida native A. Philip Randolph helped initiate and direct the March on Washington in August 1963.
A. Philip Randolph, ca. 1940
Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979), the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was born in Crescent City, Florida, and grew up in Jacksonville. The son of a Methodist minister, he attended the City College of New York and later published The Messenger, a radical black magazine. As a result of his efforts, the 1937 contract between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Pullman Company cut working hours, increased pay, and improved working conditions. Randolph was also a major factor in ending discrimination in defense plants and segregation in the U.S. military.
Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C., 1950s. Membership included African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains.
Fifty years ago this summer, Randolph helped initiate and direct the March on Washington – the largest civil rights demonstration in American history. Randolph first called for a demonstration at the U.S. Capitol in 1941 to protest employment discrimination. He played an instrumental role in the months leading up to the 1963 demonstration as the elder statesman of the “Big Six,” which included Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders from the largest civil rights organizations in the U.S. Randolph helped unite the various groups behind the common message of jobs and freedom.
Learn more about the Civil Rights Movement in Florida.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day is observed each year on the third Monday of January, near Dr. King’s birthday (January 15, 1929).
Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr. in Saint Augustine, Florida (1964)
Dr. King led and participated in countless demonstrations during the Civil Rights Movement. Two films from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida contain footage of Dr. King from demonstrations in St. Augustine, Florida, and Selma, Alabama.