Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Connection to Louisiana

January 16, 2023

Martin Luther King, Jr., Day is a defining moment each year when Americans across the country reflect on the life and ministry of Dr. King.

The King holiday serves multiple purposes: It honors the total legacy of King; focuses on the issue of civil rights; highlights the use of nonviolence to promote change; and calls people into public service.

As we all reflect on the life of Dr. King, it's important to note the connection he had to Louisiana, specifically Baton Rouge.

Early in his adult life, Dr. King visited Southern University for Sunday Vespers services. Additionally, Baton Rouge had a direct effect on Dr. King and, thus, on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole thanks, in large part, to the ministry of Rev. T.J. Jemison.

Jemison led a bus boycott in Baton Rouge in 1953. This boycott would later serve as a model for the Montgomery bus boycott. Dr. King called Jemison three days after the Montgomery protest began, and reported in his memoir that “his painstaking description of the Baton Rouge experience was invaluable”.

Jemison later recalled the importance of his friend, King, to the movement: “The Christian rearing had given him a burning desire that the whites could not understand. It was sort of like a peace that the world can’t give and the world can’t take away.”

Listen as the T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History at LSU honors Dr. King's memory and explores the role Baton Rouge citizen activism played in Dr. King’s political successes.
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