Celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr’s legal legacy

This year, the United States celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service on January 21. You can attend special events commemorating the legacy of Dr. King around the University beginning on January 9, 2013. On January 11 and January 18, the University will screen and hold a discussion sponsored by the Law School’s Black Law Students Association (BLSA) concerning Eyes on the Prize:  America’s Civil Rights Movement, an Academy Award-nominated, 14-hour PBS documentary film series. Photo of Judy RichardsonOn January 17 at 6PM at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, the University will host a conversation with University of Chicago Professor Charles Payne and Judy Richardson. Ms. Richardson, associate producer and education director of Eyes on the Prize, is a civil rights activist, author, and early staff worker with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).  

You can also visit an MLK-related exhibit at Regenstein Library, on the 2nd floor reading room just outside the main elevator area.  The display features materials about the SNCC, women in the civil rights movement, and items to which Judy Richardson has contributed. Besides attending the University’s MLK Commemoration Celebration events and volunteering for community service, you can also check out library resources on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s national and international legal legacy, including his Nobel Peace Prize

You can also read about the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Chicago legacy. He gave three speeches on campus between 1956 and 1966, and he worked on the Chicago-wide struggle for housing equality. Dr. King and a Chicago activist, Al Raby, jointly led a campaign for decent and integrated housing in Chicago called the Chicago Freedom Movement or the Chicago Open Housing Movement. Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) announced plans for the Chicago Freedom Movement on January 7, 1966. Later that month, Dr. King began his “Northern Crusade” by moving with his family into a slum apartment on Chicago’s West Side. He placed demands (PDF) for nondiscriminatory housing practices and rehabilitated public housing on the door of Chicago City Hall on July 10, 1966.

During his stay, Dr. King staged protest marches around Chicago [video]. His open housing campaign was met with hostility and violence. Some Chicagoans stoned Dr. King on August 5, 1966 during a march through Marquette Park. ‘‘I have to do this – to expose myself – to bring this hate into the open. I have seen many demonstrations in the south but I have never seen anything so hostile and so hateful as I’ve seen here today.’’ (‘‘Dr. King Is Felled by Rock,’’ Chicago Tribune, August 6, 1966, via ProQuest Historical Newspapers database). Dr. King’s stay in Chicago led to an agreement with the Chicago Real Estate Board that the Board would stop opposing open-housing laws in exchange for an end to the protest marches (Chicago Tribune). 

Dr. King’s “Chicago Crusade” to root out housing discrimination and other forms of racial injustice is briefly described in Chicago Campaign (1966) (Stanford MLK Encyclopedia), David B. Oppenheimer, “Dr. King’s Legal Legacy:  A Critical Analysis,” 33 DAVJ Newsl. 29 (2008), Chicago Freedom Movement (Wikipedia), and Power, Politics, & Pride:  Dr. King’s Chicago Crusade (WTTW). For a more detailed treatment, read James R. Ralph, Jr.’s book, Northern Protest:  Martin Luther King, Jr., Chicago, and the Civil Rights Movement (Harvard University Press, 1993) and Chicago 1966:  Open Housing Marches, Summit Negotiations, and Operation Breadbasket (David J. Garrow ed., 1989).

About Lyonette Louis-Jacques

Foreign and International Law Librarian and Lecturer in Law, D'Angelo Law Library, University of Chicago Law School
This entry was posted in Foreign & International Law, General News, Law, Law Featured Resources, U.S. Law. Bookmark the permalink.
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