HATTIESBURG, MISS. – Students and faculty members from William Carey University (WCU) stood in front of Mt. Zion Baptist Church with their hands and fingers linked together, Tuesday evening.
“When he [Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.] came to Mt. Zion in 1968, he was here to recruit for the Poor People’s Campaign,” Jay Richardson, a WCU assistant professor of history said.
Dr. King actually made two visits to Hattiesburg. He made one visit in 1964 and another in 1968. During both of his visits, Dr. King made a special appearance at Mt. Zion Baptist Church located on Spence St.
March 19, 1968, King came to Hattiesburg to recruit people to help him lead a march on Washington for the Poor People’s Campaign, advocating for all people to be treated the same regardless of their income.
“I never did see Dr. King that night,” Hattie Brown, a lifelong Hattiesburg resident said. “It was so crowded.”
Brown says she visited the church the same night that Dr. King made his appearance, but due to the large crowd she never saw him.
“Just to know that he came here, it was a good feeling,” Brown said. “It just made you feel like you were protected and everything was going to be alright.”
“For me these civil right leaders, they are the next generation of founding fathers,” Richardson said. “Because they are the ones completing what the founding fathers left undone. These civil rights leaders made America better, not only for African Americans but for all Americans.”
Two weeks after his visit Dr. King died in Memphis, (Tenn.) after being assassinated outside of a motel. Despite his death, Dr. King's dream still carries on 51 years later, from one generation to the next.