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Reflecting on Martin Luther King Jr.'s Time in Miami

Martin Luther King Jr., with trusted lieutenant Andrew Young, behind him.

The civil right's leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spent a significant amount of time in Miami. During the 1950s and 60s, Dr. King was a regular at the historic Hampton House. The hotel, located in Miami's Brownsville neighborhood, was frequented by many of the African American athletes and civil rights leaders of the time including Jim Brown and Malcolm X. 

It was at the historic Hampton House where Dr. King rehearsed his legendary "I Have a Dream" speech. He also organized with C.O.R.E or the Congress of Racial Equality to establish non-violent protests and was a strong advocate in connecting Miami's growing Cuban population with the city's black community.

Dr. Enid Pinkney is the CEO and President of the Historic Hampton House. She shared stories of Dr. King's time in Miami and why he was important to the city's desegregation movement. 

WLRN: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. crafted his “I Have A Dream” speech at the Hampton House and he even practiced it for a small audience. What do we know about how that speech was received? How has it shaped the history of the Hampton House?

PINKNEY: A.D. Moore,  he too is now deceased, but he said he was sitting right there next to Dr. King and when he gave that speech he said he just felt all kinds of thrills going up and down his spine.

Because this is the famous Dr. King's speech, he's practicing it here in South Florida. Before he gives it to the nation.

Right. And he said that was a speech that was thunderous. It was magnificent.

Just two years prior to Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, he delivered the speech at the historic Hampton House establishing the creation of the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And he spoke about the need for blacks in Miami's new Cuban population to work together and not combat for their place in the job market. What can you tell us about what was happening at that time? 

Well, the Cubans were coming to Miami at that time and they were coming in large numbers. And I think that Dr. King was prophetic in that statement. It's good that was recorded because a lot of what he said actually came true. I feel that it is true because the job market is so slim and it's so hard for many of us, especially young black people, to get jobs and now when they have to know Spanish or another language that puts another burden on them. So I feel, that he was prophetic in his statement and seeing what would eventually  happen in the community.

When you think about Dr. King's legacy and all the things that he accomplished, why isn't more of his time in Miami talked about?

Well, maybe because they don't know. That could be one of the reasons, I'm not quite sure. I can't put a definite answer to that question, but I think that lack of knowledge as to exactly what happened and how he did help with the desegregation of Miami might not be known because it didn't cause as much notoriety as it did in other places. And because the whites and the blacks got together and settled so many things that he did accomplish that he didn't get the publicity.

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.