Every third Monday in January our nation reflects on the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. and his fight for freedom and equality.
Today we take a look back on four of King’s visits to the Dallas area and how those visits echoed his service of empowering freedom and equality, communities, youth and standing up against injustice.
Hop on board with us and DART where King walked.
On April 22, 1956 King delivered a sermon celebrating Youth Day at Good Street Baptist Church in Dallas when the church stood at 902 North Good Street. At a time when African Americans faced racial tensions, Youth Day, among Men’s Day, Women’s Day and other celebrations, remained a tradition among African American churches to honor and celebrate the people in their community.
Jessica Lennon, DART’s manager of education outreach, understands the value in empowering the next generation. Her transit education team works to host school and youth events at DART, introducing them to the agency’s services and career possibilities. Lennon said King’s life’s work embodied the ideals of freedom and equality that can inspire young people.
“Dr. King empowered youth with his vision, his actions, his hope and his sacrifice,” she said.
DART to the Spot:
See where Good Street Baptist Church once stood when you head south on the Green Line toward Buckner and look eastward out the window, right before North Good Latimer Expressway intersects Central Expressway, near Deep Ellum Station.
You can also visit the church’s new location by taking Bus Route 541 to the Bonnie View at Millermore bus stop.
On October 22, 1959, amid anger and bomb threats, King spoke to Froth Worth residents and community leaders among a crowd of about 400 at what used to be Fort Worth’s Majestic Theater on 1101 Commerce Street. The event issued in desegregation in the community because, for the first time, at that event, African Americans could enter through the front door of the theater and sit on the lower seats.
The Majestic Theater no longer stands, but memory of King’s only visit to Fort Worth lives downtown where the city of Fort Worth honored his visit with a marker on Main Street.
Edie Diaz, DART’s vice president of government relations, understands the importance of empowering communities. She and her team work to strengthen DART’s community relationships by addressing legislative issues at the state, federal, regional and local levels.
Diaz said King’s inclusive message allowed people to view themselves as their brother’s keeper and united people from different backgrounds to come together for the greater good of their communities.
DART to the Spot:
View where Fort Worth’s Majestic Theater once stood when you catch the Green or Orange Line to Victory Station and then hop on the Trinity Railway Express to Fort Worth Central Station. View of 1101 Commerce Street is just a short walk away.
While you’re downtown, take a walk through the Heritage Trails where you can see King’s commemorative marker and read about his 1959 visit.
On January 4, 1963 King spoke during the Dallas County United Poll Tax Rally at Dallas Music Hall in Fair Park. According to a 1963 article archive from the Dallas Morning News obtained by the Dallas Public Library, about 2,500 people gathered to hear King speak amid racial tensions in the city, and even a bomb threat that evening. King spoke about the American dream as true freedom and equality for all men.
Marcus Moore Jr., DART’s assistant vice president of civil rights, understands the impact in upholding fairness and equal treatment. He and his team work to ensure that DART is an agency of inclusion and equality for all people including minorities, women and individuals with disabilities.
“King’s legacy is significant and relevant today because many of the freedoms and equalities enjoyed today are directly related to his efforts,” Moore said.
DART to the Spot:
Take a trip back in history to Dallas Music Hall to see what it would have been like to hear King speak. Ride the Green Line to Fair Park Station or MLK, Jr. Station then take a short walk to the music hall.
Dallas March 17, 1966
Empower Standing Up Against Injustice
Photo of McFarlin Auditorium via Southern Methodist University
On March 17, 1966 , After accepting an invitation from Southern Methodist University’s student senate, King spoke at the university’s McFarlin Auditorium, to a standing-room crowd in a space that could seat about 2,400 people. King highlighted the progress and struggles of African Americans and encouraged the crowd to become participants in standing up against injustice.
“And so you, out of love, stand up because you want to redeem him and the object is never to annihilate your opponent but to convert him and bring him to that brighter day when he can stand up and see that all men are brothers.” King said during the speech that day.
Brittney Farr, DART’s community connections program manager understands the importance of taking a stand for justice. She oversees DART's roles in social issues including human trafficking, food insecurity, work force access and homelessness.
“King inspired millions to take a stand against racism," Farr said. “There is still much work to do, but the foundation that King provided serves as a blueprint for what this country could achieve.”
DART to the Spot:
Experience what it would have been like to sit among the crowd at McFarlin Auditorium and ride the Orange, Blue or Red Line to SMU/Mockingbird Station. Next, hop on the SMU Express 741 bus to the Bishop at SMU Turnaround bus stop. The auditorium is a short walk away.
King often spoke about the importance of service to do good and that when all is said and done, he would like for people to remember him as a person who served.
“I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity,” he said at an Atlanta church in 1968.
In 1994, Congress designated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday as a day of service. The day encourages us to follow in King’s example, not just talking about doing good, but walking the walk and serving our fellow man as he did.
The Martin Luther King, Research and Education Institute, Stanford University
The Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
Fort Worth Citywide Historic Preservation Planhttp://fortworthtexas.gov/uploadedFiles/Planning/Historic_Preservation/2003%20Citywide%20Historic%20Preservation%20web.pdf, July 2003, pg. 28
The 1911 Majestic Theater in Fort Worth, photograph, 1911?; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth38549/m1/1/: accessed January 15, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting University of Texas at Arlington Library.
Memorial to commemorate MLK Jr. to come to downtown Fort Worth
MLK ‘taught us to stand up and do what was right’ on 1959 visit to Fort Worth
2,500 Cheer King's Civil Rights Speech
Dallas Morning News - January 5, 1963, Article Type: News Article, Page: 5, Location: Dallas, Texas. (Obtained from the Dallas Public Library)
Dr. King to Address Jan. 4 Rally
Dallas Morning News - December 19, 1962, Article Type: News Article, Page: 5, Location: Dallas, Texas. (Obtained from the Dallas Public Library)
Transcript of Dr. Martin Luther King's speech at SMU on March 17, 1966
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at SMU: March 17, 1966
Remembering Martin Luther King's 1966 Visit To SMU
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Speaks At Dallas Fair Park Music Hall in 1963
SMU Central Libraries Archive