WV History: Jan 24, 1960 Martin Luther King Jr Visited Charleston, WV

Reading through the OTD items for January on the WV Archives page, I found that Dr Martin Luther King Jr preached one Sunday morning in January 1960 at a church in Charleston, WV. I would have loved to have seen/heard that.

One would think that there would be a plethora of articles and pieces on that event. But there is not. I have included a nice piece from the WV state magazine “Goldenseal” from the 50th Anniversary of the occasion. In addition to that I found a handful of articles that I have also included. There are a few items from the Archives as well.

I would love to hear any stories from people who attended the service or his speech afterward. Or to hear stories told by elders that readers might have heard.

CLIPPED FROM: Sunday Gazette-Mail / Charleston, West Virginia
10 Jan 1960, Sun  •  Page 11

Dr. King Sees Big Integration Step

Charleston Gazette
January 24, 1960

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said in Charleston Saturday that he believed “we will have moved a long way toward a desegregated society in the next 10 to 15 years.”

The Negro leader who led a publicized battle to integrate the bus system in Montgomery, Ala., said it was difficult to make predictions but he offered this observation:

“I feel that we’re in the last stages of resistance in the South. I don’t mean it’s going to end next year but I do feel that we’re in the last stages of the powerful, determined resistance and it is my feeling that within a few years even the hard core states will realize that resistance is futile and closing schools is an absurd way to deal with the problem.

“Now that doesn’t mean there will be all-out integration in the next five years…but I do feel that resistance will lessen a great deal because of many developments that are taking place at the present time.”

Dr. King, who will preach today at the First Baptist Church’s 11 a.m. service, said he believed that one of the developments – school closings – had given moderates a rallying point.

“Even the segregationists can now say, ‘I’m a segregationist but – I want the schools open.. It gives them something else to deal with in this whole situation.

“Two powerful interests have collided in the South: the institution of segregation and the institution of the public schools and the people up to now have made it palpably clear that when the final choice comes, they will choose the schools.

“This happened in Little Rock and it happened in Virginia and it’s happening in Atlanta, right now.”

Dr. King, who was 31 Friday, said it was his hope and belief that eventually “we will achieve the realization of the dream of our democracy, an integrated society.”

Sitting in his room at a downtown hotel, the man who was stabbed, arrested and who had his house bombed as a result of his activities in the racial field, said he envisioned more than the white South merely conforming to the law:

“…That would be, certainly a necessary step toward the end,” he said. “Breaking down legal barriers would be a very important step toward the ultimate end.

“But, ultimately, we seek integration which is true inter-group, inter-personal living where you sit on the bus, you sit together, not because the law says it but because it’s natural, because it’s right.

“Now this naturalness of response that we ultimately seek is why we’re working now to break down the legal barriers. This is a necessary and important step toward the ultimate end because so long as you have the barriers there it makes it so much more difficult for people to change their attitudes. For that reason, integration will take much, much longer than desegregation.”

Dr. King, who is leaving the Dexter Baptist Church in Montgomery to devote more time to his duties as president of Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Atlanta, said he thought many white Southerners were willing to go along.

“Actually, I think there’s three classes of people in the white South today,” he said. “The first group, perhaps the smallest of all, and surely a minority is composed of those who are willing to do violence.

“The second group, and they’re small, too, is what I think of as liberals – people who have come to see that segregation is morally wrong and want to end it.

“I would imagine that most of the people are in the third group. They’re neither active integrationists nor active segregationists, but passive adherents of the status quo. Since the status quo is segregation now they go along with it but they would go along with integration if that became the status quo. I mean if it was accepted and they were not bothered and tampered with by the politicians.”

Dr. King, who has a Ph. D. from Boston University, said his travel abroad has convinced him that world opinion will cause the federal government to take a more active role in encouraging desegregation.

“In India and Africa I found a very distinct feeling of anti-Americanism because of what they’d heard about our problems,” he said. “I met people who didn’t speak English but who knew ‘Little Rock’ and what it meant.”

Despite his sometimes traumatic experience, Dr. King said he, personally, was fond of the South. “I think it’s a wonderful section of the country and if we could get rid of this segregation problem and all we would have something very fine in the South,” he said.

Rev. Moses Newsome, pastor of the First Baptist Church, said the public was invited to hear Dr. King when he speaks today.

Clipping about MLK Visit and Racial Attitudes in Charleston
CLIPPED FROM: Charleston Gazette-Mail / Charleston, West Virginia / Jan 23, 1960
Clipping from Jan. 25, 1960 about MLK Speech at First Baptist in Charleston

On the WVDHHR Page you can find this photo with the following caption: “On January 24, 1960, civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preached at Charleston’s First Baptist Church.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.