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A visual history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to Cleveland (vintage photos)

January 15, 2018 GMT

A visual history of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visits to Cleveland (vintage photos)

CLEVELAND, Ohio - The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to the Cleveland Area many times during the Civil Rights era.

With today being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we decided to look at the civil rights leader’s ties to Northeast Ohio. You’ll find a photos of his visits here - and the memorial services that followed his death in 1968 - in the gallery above.

King gave speeches at Glenville High School and historic churches like the Antioch Baptist Church and St. Paul’s Episcopal Church during his stops in Northeast Ohio in the 1950s and the 1960s.

While in Greater Cleveland he helped advance the Civil Rights Movement by challenging segregation and racism from the podium, helping register Northeast Ohioans to vote and raising money for the groups like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

King’s first stop in Cleveland came in 1956, two years after the Civil Rights Movement began. He spoke about the Montgomery County Bus Boycott during a talk at the Hollenden Hotel, according to Case Western Reserve University’s Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

That boycott ended with a Supreme Court decision that declared racial segregation on the public transit system unconstitutional.

One of King’s visits, in October of 1960, was cancelled after he was arrested and refused bail following an Atlanta sit-in.

The civil rights leader came to Cleveland just a week after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for a “march to the ballot box,” in which he urged Clevelanders to vote in the next election.

Then-Cleveland Mayor Ralph Locher branded him an extremist when King came to the city several times in 1967 to denounce vandalism and violence in the black community.

Boycotts and attempts to improve conditions in Cleveland’s poor neighborhoods and improve relations between the police and the black community grew out of his visits to Northeast Ohio that year.

In one of his most significant contributions to Northeast Ohio, King lead voter registration drives prior to the 1967 election. Clevelanders chose Carl B. Stokes to be the first black mayor of a major American city that year.

King often spoke at churches, regularly drawing thousands of people. A speech at St. Paul Episcopal drew 14,000.

His ties to the area remained his death.

Robert F. Kennedy famously eulogized the civil rights leader in a speech to the City Club of Cleveland the day after King was shot and killed outside the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

These events and more are collected in the photo gallery above.