Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Cape May Commemorates 60th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Visit and Stirring 1958 Speech 'Nonviolence & Racial Justice'

Cape May Commemorates 60th Anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Visit and Stirring 1958 Speech 'Nonviolence & Racial Justice'

Dr. Martin Luther King was guest speaker for the 1958 Friends General Conference in Cape May, N.J. Hear the powerful words that brought people to their feet in resounding applause on June 27, 1958

Members of the public are invited to attend and join in a community celebration of an important moment in local and national history during "Martin Luther King Jr. in Cape May: A 60th Anniversary Celebration," on Wednesday, June 27 at 7:00 pm at Cape May Convention Hall, 714 Beach Avenue, Cape May, NJ. Admission is free and light refreshments will be available.

This special evening of remembrance, music and fellowship is presented by The City of Cape May, in association with the Center for Community Arts (CCA), the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities (MAC), Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cape May, Macedonia Baptist Church and the Greater Cape May Historical Society.

Martin Luther King Jr. at the Friends General Conference in Cape May, 1958. Source: Courtesy of Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College. 
"Martin Luther King Jr. in Cape May: A 60th Anniversary Celebration" will feature a performance of the speech titled "Nonviolence & Racial Justice," which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. presented June 27, 1958 during the Friends General Conference in Cape May, June 23-30, 1958. Held during the height of the Civil Rights Movement (1954-1968), the speech was part of the biennial Quakers' Friends General Conference. These Friends General Conferences have been held since 1868 and Cape May was host for over 30 years, from 1928 until 1962.

According to reports of the time, attendance at the Friends' conference in 1958 was anticipated to match the 1956 record at 2,500, yet reality exceeded expectations. According to writer Larry Miller in the May 2000 issue of Friends Journal, the conference attracted 3,200 attendees including 1,000 children - which he noted as a high point. Attendees made their own housing and meal arrangements. The Conference was titled, "From Fear to Faith." Major speakers were featured in evening addresses and included Dr. King, then president of the Montgomery, Ala. Improvement Association, and American political journalist, author, professor, and world peace advocate Norman Cousins (1915-1990).

Dr. King's speech, given on June 27, 1958, was met with rousing applause and a standing ovation:
The audience filled the pier from the front of the hall, where children sat on the floor below the platform, to the extreme rear of the entrance foyer, where many people stood. Only minimum aisles were kept open, and many heads were thrust through the side windows. Clarence Pickett introduced Martin Luther King, Jr., as a man "who speaks with a voice 'heard round the world.'
July 26, 1958 issue of Friends Journal, p. 445

Dr. King's words from June 27, 1958 remind listeners today of their universal message of peace and hope:
... Call it what you may, whether it is Being Itself, with Paul Tillich, or the Principle of Concretion with Whitehead, or whether it is a Process of Integration with Wieman, or whether it is a sort of impersonal Brahman with Hinduism, or whether it is a personal God with boundless power and infinite love, there is something in this universe that works in every moment to bring the disconnected aspects of reality into a harmonious whole. There is a power that seeks to bring low prodigious hilltops of evil and pull down gigantic mountings of injustice, and this is the faith, this is the hope that can keep us going amid the tension and the darkness of any moment of social transition. We come to see that the dark of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice. This is the faith and the hope that will keep us going ...
"Nonviolence & Racial Justice" by Martin Luther King Jr.

Excerpts of Dr. King's speech will be read by Derrick McQueen and the context of his speech will be considered given the intervening years, by Harold Dean Trulear, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Applied Theology, at Howard University. Musical selections will be offered and a plaque noting the 60th anniversary of Dr. King's visit to Cape May will be dedicated and permanently displayed at Cape May Convention Hall. Members of the public are invited to attend and learn more about this inspiring period of local and national history and celebrate the man whose words helped change that history for the betterment of mankind.

For more information, call 609-884-9565 or visit

Do you enjoy the articles and features that The History Girl produces each week? 
If so, consider a donation to keep the movement going!


Post a Comment

Thanks for the comments!