On June 5, 1963, an interracial crowd overflowed what is now the University of St. Francis Performing Arts Center in downtown Fort Wayne, and waited anxiously for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to take the podium. His visit to our city was faced with plenty of adversity, as were many other facets of the Civil Rights Movement, yet Fort Wayne activists kept on fighting.

Throughout the 1960s, NAACP Youth marched outside of Northcrest shopping center to protest non-hiring of African Americans, the Ministerial Alliance led boycotts and walks down Calhoun to fight Fort Wayne Community School segregation, and other Civil Rights activists demonstrated outside of the Allen County Courthouse to display treatment of minorities in the community. 

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To celebrate one of the most influential civil rights movement leader’s birthday, we challenge you to immerse yourself in the community and make a difference!

5 Ways to Celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Fort Wayne

1. Attend Dr. King Unity Day

Join the Martin Luther King, Jr. Club for a day of “creating community connections.”

Speakers include Mayor Tom Henry, Pastor Anthony Pettus, Sr. and Bishop Willie Bolden and other community leaders, artists and activists. Expect incredible performances and engaging roundtable discussions.

The event will take place at the Grand Wayne Convention Center. Visit the MLK Club website and Facebook page for more details and ticket information. 

2. Visit the African / African American Historical Society Museum

The AAAHSM (aka “AWESOME”) displays Fort Wayne’s largest public collection of African Art and showcases many historic items and documents.

Be sure to check out their Civil Rights movement room that commemorates MLK and many others who joined his fight.

Located at 436 E. Douglas Ave., the museum is typically open Tues, Thur, and Sat from 10 AM to 2 PM with a $7 adult / $5 admission fee. We suggest setting an appointment prior to arrival.

3. Participate in the University of St. Francis' MLK Day of Service

While many people have the day off, you will find USF students and faculty taking a day ON! They invite everyone in the community to join them for a special lecture with Ketu Oladuwa, a notable poet, journalist, musician and director.

Following mass and lunch, USF will provide transit to over 10 different service projects happening all over town including the American Red Cross, Friends of the Third World, and Franciscan Center.

For a full itinerary and more information, visit their web page

4. Local History Lecture Series: Discovering an Online Local African American History Collection

The Allen County Public Library is home to the nation’s largest public genealogy collection. The Marsha Smiley collection showcases our African American Community.

Through this event, you will learn more about local history, how to contribute and use this for historical and genealogical research.

To get involved, visit their Facebook event page. While you are at the library, take time to use ACPL resources to learn about your own lineage or browse the wide variety of publications! 

5. Find a Volunteer Opportunity! 

Join the millions of others doing service in their community to fulfill MLK’s vision of a better America.

There are many nonprofits in Fort Wayne that welcome new volunteers and donations.

To find an opportunity that fits your skills and interests, check out the national database for the MLK Day of service.