Throwback Thursday: 50 Years Ago, Martin Luther King, Jr., Spoke on the Common

On April 23, 1965, a crowd of 22,000 people gathered to hear King speak.

Associated Press

Associated Press

Fifty years ago on April 23, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr., led one of Boston’s first freedom marches from Roxbury to Boston Common. Galvanized by his presence, 22,000 people gathered together to hear him speak in one of the city’s most enormous demonstrations for civil rights.

King had first grown to know Boston as a student at Boston University in the 1950s. It was then that he met his wife Coretta. But when he returned in 1965, it was not as an anonymous student, but as an enormous figure in the Civil Rights movement. Two years after his “I Have a Dream Speech,” he addressed the Massachusetts state legislature with similar language, looking forward to a day when all kinds of people could join hands and sing “Free at last.”

The next day, April 23, he joined others at the front of a mile-long column of marchers in Roxbury. Together, they walked to the Boston Common. There, with 22,000 people gathered to listen despite the cold rain, King spoke for 25 minutes on issues of racial segregation, housing, and education in the state.

“Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy. Now is the time to make brotherhood a reality. Now is the time,” he said.