SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Tuesday marked what would be the 90th birthday of a man who gave his life fighting for equality and Civil Rights.
What started as a dream spoken in a church more than 50 years ago turned into a legacy that forever changed the world. Ahead of what would have been his 90th birthday, WTOC spoke with several people who say Savannah will never forget Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“My understanding is that it was one Sunday afternoon, ministers were meeting here, and someone mentioned to people outside that MLK is in the building,” said Gloria S. Brown, Second African Baptist Church. “It created a lot of excitement. People came from everywhere.”
Gloria Brown is a member of the Second African Baptist Church in downtown Savannah. As someone who’s been attending the church for 50 years, she’s very familiar with the story of one of Dr. King’s visits to the Hostess City.
“My understanding also is this is the place where he did part of his ‘I have a dream’ speech before he went to Washington D.C.,” she said.
That speech, given in August of 1963 during the March on Washington, would inspire generations to come.
“During that time, it appeared this was a new way of thinking, as far as Civil Rights was concerned. Before then, people were more or less more aggressive in asking for things."
Local historian Vaughnette Goode Walker explains how Dr. King praised Savannah leaders for making strides in equality far before the rest of the country.
“He talked about Savcannah being ahead of the Civil Rights bill that was passed later that year, calling it one of the first desegregated cities south of the Mason Dixon. He gave credit to the NAACP and of course, the black church,” Goode-Walker said.
All of these efforts were made possible by people like Rev. Ralph Mark Gilbert, WW Law, and others. The work of King and our own local Civil Rights pioneers gave Gloria Brown the strength to make history.
“I was the first black in Savannah to integrate a school as professional,” she said. “This was out in the Port Wentworth area. The times were very turbulent. It was quite the experience, but I knew it was a task that had to be done.”
A task that Dr. King would have no doubt been proud of. When asked about the legacy she hopes Dr. King will have on Savannah for years to come, Brown said this:
“If we can espouse the idea of love to our fellow citizens and the people around us, it will make this world in which we live a much better place.”
There will be events honoring Dr. King all week long, culminating with the big parade on Monday in Savannah.