Remembering the Life and Legacy of Dr. King

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland reflects on the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his visits to the Bay Area

Martin Luther King Jr. standing with group of women at Bethel Baptist Church event in Oakland, California 1967

African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection


 Return of MLK Film Festival

After a one year hiatus, the African American Museum and Library at Oakland returns with the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Film Festival. AAMLO has hosted the film festival for over 15 years to pay homage to the legendary slain civil rights leader. Dr. King was a civil rights activist who fought against policies that promoted racism and segregation through peaceful protests. This year’s MLK Film Festival will be on Monday January 21, 2019 from 11 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Bus Boycott

In 1955 King led the Montgomery bus boycott over the segregation policies of the bussing system. In March 1955 a young 15 year old pregnant African American girl, Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat to a white man on the bus. King and others were aware of this case but decided that this was not the person they wanted to wage the bus boycott fight with. Nine months later on December 1, 1955 a woman named Rosa Parks got off work, sat in the front of the bus and began to make her journey home. Stops later, a white man got on and Parks was asked to move from her seat – she refused.  Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat. The bus boycott began as a political and social protest against segregation policies. This boycott would continue for over a year.  

In 2016 the African American Museum and Library for Black History Month and Women’s History Month presented an exhibit, Heroines of the Civil Rights Movement which documented the lives of some of the extraordinary women who play an important role during the Civil Rights era.

March on Washington

In August 1963, Dr. King stood in front of nearly 250,000 people to speak at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. As Dr. King was giving his speech, the legendary Mahalia Jackson shouted out to Dr. King to tell the crowd about the dream. What would follow was Dr. Kings’ famous I Have a Dream Speech. The March on Washington was instrumental in getting the Civil Rights of Act of 1964 signed into law.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned discrimination on the basis on the color, race, religion, sex or national origin.  


Dr. King travelled to Memphis, Tennessee to support African American sanitation workers who had been striking for better treatment and higher wages. On April 4, 1968 Dr. King was assassinated as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee.

Stops in Bay Area

Dr. King traveled to Oakland in June 1957 for a rally at the Oakland Auditorium. The rally was to urge African Americans to vote in the coming elections. King also spoke to a crowd of over 7,000 at the Greek Theater in the fall of 1967.

Martin Luther King Jr. posing with group of men

African American Museum & Library at Oakland Photograph Collection


 Oakland Honors Dr. King

In the days after the assassination of Dr. King, city councilman Joshua Rose, Oakland’s first African American to sit on the city council, suggested the formation of a group to put together ideas of how to honor the slain civil rights leader. Those ideas included naming the Grove-Shafter Freeway, renaming East 14th Street or naming the West Oakland Center after him. Though many East bay lawmakers wanted to name the stretch of freeway after King, others were opposed to the idea. The freeway was instead named the William Byron Rumford Freeway after Byron Rumford, an African American politician elected to state public office as Assemblyman.

Bay Area cities including Oakland, Berkeley, Richmond and Hayward have honored Dr. King by renaming streets after him. In 1984 Berkeley and Oakland changed Grove Street to Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd runs from downtown Oakland through Downtown Berkeley terminating in North Berkeley.

The city of Oakland not only has a street named after the slain civil rights leader. In 1970 the City Council passed a resolution to name the newly built library at 68th and E.14th [now International Blvd] after Dr. King. It was built to replace the former Lockwood Library and remains a part of the Lockwood community today. The library was dedicated on May 27, 1970.

[Oakland Library Archive Courtesy - Oakland Public Library, Oakland History Room]

Martin Luther King Film Showing and Times

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland will be hosting the Martin Luther King Film Festival on the MLK Holiday on January 21, 2019. Our show times for the movies are as follow:

From “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross" series:

11:00AM         Making a Way Out of No Way (1897-1940)

12:00PM          Rise! (1940-1968)

1:00 PM           A More Perfect Union (1968-2013)

From “The Black America Since Martin Luther King and Still I Rise” series

2:00 PM           Keep Your Head Up

3:00 PM           Touch the Sky

4:00 PM           The Powerbroker: Whitney Young's Fight For Civil Rights

We hope that you come celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with us. Bring your children, family, and friends.

This event is FREE and open to the public.


Books celebrating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King from our children’s collection:   


This children’s comic book comes to you from our Rare Book collection.




Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on film:


Books from the Adult Reference Library Collection:

The African American Museum and Library at Oakland contains reference materials which include titles such as The Papers of Martin Luther King Jr., a 6-volume set containing unpublished documents of Dr. King.





What do you think Dr. King would think of the times we live in as African Americans today?

Please share your thoughts and reflections here. We’d love to hear your voice.



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