Did You Know? 1959.

The Day MLK Came To Iowa City.
Did You Know? the audio version

Did you know that on Wednesday, November 11, 1959, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke to a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the SUI Memorial Union Ballroom in Iowa City?

In that moving speech, Dr. King warned his audience to not fall into complacency on the never-ending march toward social justice.

Let me read you a few quotes from Dr. King’s address – words that are still true today.

“Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable,” said the 30-year-old pastor from Alabama. “Even a superficial look at history reveals that no social advance rolls in on the wheels of inevitability. Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering and struggle — the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.”

“We adopt the means of non-violence because our end is a community at peace with itself,” King said. “We will try to persuade with our words, but if our words fail, we will try to persuade with our acts. We will always be willing to talk and seek fair compromise, but we are ready to suffer when necessary and even risk our lives to become witnesses to the truth as we see it.”

Dianna Penny, long-time church leader at Bethel AME Church in Iowa City, was 18 back then, and in the crowd that night King gave his lecture at SUI. Her father, Rev. Fred L. Penny had picked up Dr. King at the airport near Cedar Rapids that day. They made a brief stop at Bethel before Penny dropped King off at the Hotel Jefferson downtown.

Dianna remembers the huge crowd on hand to hear King speak, and the excitement of being introduced to him afterward. “First of all, it was standing-room only,” Penny said. “He gave a stirring lecture, of course, followed by a question-and-answer session. I was able to meet him afterward and shake his hand.”

Dr. King concluded his evening speech with the request that his audience be “maladjusted” in the sense that they not adjust to the evils of segregation. He said that the world is in desperate need of the maladjustment that made such men as Lincoln and Jefferson stand out “in the midst of an age amazingly adjusted to slavery” and say that all men are created equal.

Wednesday, November 11, 1959.


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