Dr. Martin Luther King exhibit to debut

Museum honors come 50 years after King's death

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) -- Nearly fifty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Springfield and Central Illinois African American Museum will debut a new exhibit in his honor. 

Dr. Paul Hudson from Lincoln Land Community College will open the event with a tribute to Dr. King and Springfield Mayor Jim Langfelder is scheduled to attend the ceremony. 

"It's really a big deal," museum coordinator Doris Bailey said. "Not just in Springfield, but 'MLK 50' is kind of a national deal because everyone wants to commemorate and honor his legacy. We want to be a part of that. We want to say thank you to him for what he's given to our country, what he's given to people of African descent, what he's given to Americans. We just want to be a part of it."

The display opens Thursday night, January 4th, at 5:30p.m. at 1440 Monument Avenue, about a mile and a half north of their old location across the street from the Old State Capitol. The museum relocated to a larger space just a few feet away from the entrance gate of the Oak Ridge Cemetery where President Abraham Lincoln is buried. 

The museum board members assembled the 'MLK 50' exhibit in collaboration with the Illinois State Museum over a span of at least six months. They hope the proximity to Lincoln's tomb will draw tourists and locals in to see a unique look at the common thread and lasting impact of Lincoln's and King's legacy. 

Dr. King delivered his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech in January 1963 standing under the "symbolic shadow" of the Lincoln Memorial 100 years after Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. 

"This is what Lincoln was fighting for a hundred years before [Dr. King] came into the limelight and they were still fighting for those same rights in the '60's," Bailey said, noting how King used rhetoric similar to Lincoln's 'Gettysburg Address' when he opened 'I Have a Dream' saying, "Five score years ago..." 

She says King made several trips to Illinois, and visited Springfield on occasion.

"I think it was in the early 1950's -- mid to early fifties -- he spoke with [former governor and Democratic presidential candidate] Adlai Stevenson. He did come to Springfield and visit here. Civil rights wasn't just a southern thing. It was a cause for our whole country," Bailey said. 

The display includes unique photographs, letters, artifacts, quilts and other items of historic significance. It will be open to the public throughout 2018. 


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