Local News

Triangle Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Posted January 15, 2008 7:49 p.m. EST
Updated January 13, 2012 6:32 a.m. EST

— While many enjoyed a day off from work on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, many in the Triangle commemorated the legacy of the slain civil rights leader.

The Raleigh-Wake Martin Luther King Celebration Committee organized what has been recognized as one of the country's best and most diverse celebrations of King's birthday.

"It's very important for African-Americans, as well as Americans, to know where we have come from," David Prince, organizer of Raleigh's King Memorial March, said.

"America has changed since the years of Dr. King," Price added. "And due to his death, America has changed for the better."

King's most famous moment occurred when he lead the 1963 March on Washington and pronounced "I have a dream" on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. After leading the fight against segregation, King turned his attention to poverty issues and spoke out against the Vietnam War.

The Triangle's celebrations kicked off with an interfaith prayer breakfast in Durham. Chapel Hill Mayor Kevin Foy, Durham Mayor Bill Bell and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker attended. WRAL's parent company, Capitol Broadcasting, was a founding partner of the 27-year-old event.

With music and singing, the 27th annual Martin Luther King Memorial March came to the State Capitol building in downtown Raleigh.

Organizers said the presence of so many children learning about King's message was the event's most encouraging aspect.

"He tried to make life better for African-Americans and equal rights," said Charles Waller, a child who marched in the parade.

"I'm just elated to see so many young children here this morning. It's a real blessing," marcher Walter Dunn said. "That lets me feel like when I'm gone that somebody will be here to hold this banner high."

“There are people from every community out here. I mean, I've seen Latinos. I've seen people from Asian communities. It's just great to see all different people together for the same reason,” Dustin Bayard said.

The Latta House Foundation took part in the march and pushed for preserving the site of a former school house and orphanage that Rev. Morgan Latta established for freed slaves in the late 1800s. After fire destroyed most of the house a year ago, Raleigh city leaders planned to convert the site into a park, possibly with a memorial to Latta.

Inclement weather forced Durham's Martin Luther King Jr. Parade to be postponed until Feb. 2. The Southeast Tourism Society named the 6-year-old event one of the region's top 20 events in the winter of 2007.

Schools and government offices across the region were closed for King's holiday.

WRAL wants want to recognize individuals and organizations whose present-day contributions exemplify the legacy of past African-American leaders. Click here to submit your nomination.

Since he was assassinated at age 39 on April 4, 1968, while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn., King has become a national icon. His legacy has been used by people all over the political spectrum, said Glenn McNair, associate professor of history at Kenyon College.

King has been part of the 2008 presidential race, in which Barack Obama could be the country's first black president. Obama has invoked King, and Sen. John Kerry endorsed Obama by saying, "Martin Luther King said that the time is always right to do what is right."

Not all the references have been received well. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton came under fire when she was quoted as saying King's dream of racial equality was realized only when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.