The History

On August 5, 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and a diverse group of 700 civil rights activists, religious leaders and courageous community members from across the city marched to Chicago’s Marquette Park. As part of the Chicago Freedom Movement, King led this march to protest housing segregation. They confronted thousands of violent protesters who hurled rocks, bottles and carried denigrating signs and messages. King would describe the crowds that day as some of the most “hostile and hate-filled” he had ever seen. A decade later, Marquette Park would become the site of American Nazi Party rallies, where fear and anxiety about the presence of African Americans and non-whites in the traditional ethnic White working class neighborhood were stoked. Dr. King reflected on the Marquette Park March as “the first step on a 1,000 mile journey.” This march, occurring in a major Northern city, is as integral to the legacy of Dr. King and the history of the civil rights movement as the March from Selma to Montgomery or the March on Washington. Dr. King and the freedom marchers that August day were challenging Chicago residents and the country to confront the systemic racism and violent practices that sought to keep black families out of urban neighborhoods like Marquette Park.