Civil rights icon Dr Martin Luther King Jr. had stepped out of a car in Marquette Park on this day in 1966 to lead a march against housing discrimination in an all-white district in Chicago when he was met by an ugly crowd.
This was not entirely new to King, who had braved similar situations during his civil rights crusade in the South, including the brutal attack on a march he had organized in Selma, Ala.
But King soon realized that this mob of white protesters in Chicago was more “hostile and hate-filled”. He and scores of demonstrators would barely begin the march to demand open housing when they were hit by rocks from the white protesters.
More about this
One of those rocks hit King, and his aides rushed to shield him.
“The blow knocked King to one knee and he thrust out an arm to break the fall,” the Chicago Tribune reported at the time. “He remained in this kneeling position, head bent, for a few seconds until his head cleared.”
At least 30 others were injured by the bricks and bottles while some 40 people were arrested. King was not perturbed by the riots, and upon recovering from his injury, he said: “I have to do this — to expose myself — to bring this hate into the open.”
Born in 1929, Martin Luther King Jr., an American Baptist minister, was the most visible spokesperson and leader in the civil rights movement from 1954 through to 1968.
He had come to Chicago to raise awareness of poor living conditions for the city’s African Americans after having battled for racial justice in the American South, from the Montgomery bus boycotts in the late 1950s to his work in Mississippi with the Freedom Riders.
At the time, blacks had flocked to Northern cities like Chicago hoping to escape Southern segregation, but it turned out worse as many of them had to move to “inner-city neighbourhoods with rundown housing and overcrowded schools.”
King had moved into an apartment in Chicago’s West Side neighbourhood of Lawndale on January 26, 1966, to demand better housing conditions for these African Americans.
Even after the violent incident in Marquette Park on August 5, fair housing demonstrations continued in other nearby cities, including Louisville and Milwaukee until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Fair Housing Act into law on April 11, 1968, one week after King’s death.
Watch the moment King was stoned during the Chicago campaign that has been described as the “most relevant campaign” for today’s world: