MLK’s Tempe speech marks 60 years of inspiration

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This week marks the 60th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s historic speech in Tempe, Arizona on June 3, 1964, titled “Religious Witness for Human Dignity.”

Approximately 8,000 individuals gathered to witness the 42-minute address, where Dr. King stirred hearts with the powerful declaration, “The wind of change is blowing.” He fervently urged the U.S. Congress to pass the groundbreaking Civil Rights Act.

Pastor Warren Stewart, from First Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix, offered valuable insights into the significance of this monumental speech.

Pastor Stewart explained why it was so important for Dr. King to travel to Arizona, since the African American community was small at the time. 

“That was amazing because Arizona probably at that time only had 2.5% to 3% of African Americans, and for him to leave the battlefield of the South and back east to come here and speak at ASU was amazing in itself. But I also think it was significant on the behalf of the ASU President as well as the pastors and local civil rights leaders who urged King to come,” said Pastor Stewart. 

After King’s visit, a month later in July 1964, the Civil Rights Legislation was passed. 

“We have to remember that when he was here, there was legalized discrimination in the United States of America. We did not live out ‘The Pledge of Allegiance,’ which says liberty and justice for all, and so, as you mention, Lyndon Johnson was able to push through the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. They changed this nation for the better,” said Pastor Stewart. 

Surprisingly, the tape of the historic speech was found at a local thrift store. 

Pastor Warren Stewart, First Institutional Baptist Church

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