When Dr. Martin Luther King Visited Rochester

Dr. Martin Luther King was in Rochester twice. The first time was Jan. 7, 1958, when he spoke at the Rochester City Club and Colgate Rochester Divinity School. He also attended a reception that evening at the home of Dr. Charles Lunsford, the city’s first Black physician and a major civil rights figure in his own right.

“I hope we will delve deeper into the whole philosophy of nonviolence,” he said at the City Club. “As one who stands every day amid the threat of death, I believe firmly that we are going to achieve the ideals of integration.”

By Oct. 25, 1962, when he came a second time, King’s profile had risen considerably, and he drew 1,500 people to an address at the War Memorial during the Empire Baptist Missionary Convention.

He called racial segregation a “cancer in the body politic which must be removed,” according to the following day’s news report.

“The price America must pay for the continued exploitation of the Negro is the price of its own destruction,” he said.

King also delivered the commencement address at Keuka College in 1963. The college recently unearthed the audio recording of that speech.

Residents of Rochester awoke on July 27, 1964, with large sections of the city still smoldering from the worst outbreak of violence in the city’s history. Four were killed, hundreds were injured and more than 1,000 were arrested.