When Martin Luther King Came to Harlem

1960s: Days of Rage


“Less than a year before his assassination, the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. came to Harlem. In the June 22, 1967, Village Voice, contributor Marlene Nadle observed the crowd anxiously awaiting the Baptist minister’s arrival: ‘Using programs folded accordion style instead of pastel fans with pictures of Christ, they managed to turn the chandeliered ballroom of the Hotel Roosevelt into a Baptist Church.’ At times during her reporting on the event, Nadle comes across as jaded, as in her description of when the audience initially glimpses King in a movie being shown by the hospital workers’ union, which had arranged the event: ‘The Lord appeared for the first time — on film. There was a great burst of applause.’ But when King arrives in the flesh and delivers his speech, Nadle acknowledges why the crowd is so rapt: ‘What he said was not important. It was the man who…

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