‘The Visit That Changed Everything’ – Andrea Lopez

Martin Luther King’s Visit to San  Diego

‘The Visit That Changed Everything’

The beginning was a dream, but it wasn’t just any dream, it was The Dream: to win the equality and search of opportunities for Africans Americans and white Americans. African Americans were no longer enslaved and imprisoned, but they were trapped in a society who saw them as less; they were regarded as less than humans. However, Black San Diegans were supported by the central formal leader, Martin Luther King Jr. He was the American Baptist minister who started the revolution that changed African Americans’ destiny; the civil rights movement. He led the dream, and fought adversities and multiple struggles since the movement started in 1955 until his assassination in 1968. As the years have passed, there have  been many events in different cities and communities that changed African American history in that particular site. For this reason Dr. Miller, professor at the University of San Diego of the History African American Studies department, assigned the Black History in the San Diego Project. Martin Luther King affected the history of San Diego by visiting it in 1964; it was the visit that changed everything. The visit provided Black San Diegans the strength and protection to continue the civil rights movement. This article will celebrate the failures, accomplishments, movements, and the character of Martin Luther King; celebrating people united for a fight against racism, discrimination, and inequality in San Diego’s African American history.

Martin Luther King’s visit to the city was centrifugal to the trajectory of African American history, life, and culture in San Diego, because it showed Black San Diegans that they were supported by him and the Black America. Since California was one of the weakest racist states, most people in the movement assumed that San Diego was not a priority, but it was for those living under the umbrella of suffering and discrimination. They were several complications as the Journal of San Diego History, written by authors Seth Mallios and Campbell Breana explains, “King’s brief trip to California in 1964 was rife with conflict. As he flew west, his cottage in Florida was attacked by armed gunmen; during his talks in San Diego, protestors handed out fliers on the site declaring that King was a communist; and a few weeks after he returned home, FBI  Director J. Edgar Hoover told reporters that King was, “the most notorious liar in the country.” Dr. King tried several times to give conferences and visit the city of San Diego, but there were always impediments, one of them being facing social adversity from white Americans. The impact of this visit is in the Journal of San Diego History which says, “San Diego was generally hostile to King’s social and political causes, even though the Baptist minister was already a global icon. This conservative Southern California town was especially backward when it came to civil rights, earning the nickname, ‘the Mississippi of the West’.” The last visit of Dr. King in 1964 strengthened the movement in California or ‘the Mississippi of the West’, inspiring many to stand up and fight for their rights, for their lives.

The civil rights movements had multiple tensions and conflicts emerging throughout its whole process, and it was no exception to Martin Luther King’s visit to California. The Alumni’s newspaper written by the San Diego State University in the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of Martin Luther King mentions the complications and fights occurring in 1964. Professor Mallios explains, “King came to San Diego State to argue against Proposition 14, a ballot measure at the time. ‘Prop. 14 was going to nullify the Rumford Fair Housing Act’, Mallios says.” This Act explained how landlords could rent to anyone they wanted, meaning ending segregation and discrimination. The goal of this proposition was to ‘re-legalize’ discrimination from landlords.  However, the timing of his visit was perfect, as San Diego, a city thought as extremely progressive, had declined the law and had proven that California needed more help than what everyone assumed. Associate Professor of Law from the University of Florida constructed this extensive thesis about Martin Luther King’s theologies and questions throughout his movement. This professor questions several of his actions and analyzes its legality. Published in March of 1990, this thesis studies the theology and political values of the civil rights movement, in many ways praising it and in others strongly criticizing it. Despite the critics, Martin Luther King’s last visit to San Diego is mentioned to be an important event and qualifies as one of the strongest accounts from King’s tour throughout the entire United States of America.

Although this article is based on the event located in San Diego, I believe it is highly important to be knowledgeable of the most important events of the Civil Rights Movement. Article, “King, Martin Luther, Jr.: Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, published in November 9, 2009, and lastly updated in March 18th, 2019, gives the general knowledge needed of how the Civil Rights Movement started and how it progressed over Dr. King’s tirelessly efforts and fights. This article provides information and details about the most important events such as, the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the Letter from Birmingham Jail, and the March on Washington. The project focuses on King’s visit to San Diego, but it is also important to know about his assassination and what occurred afterwards; how his death affected the movement in San Diego. According to History, Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, “led to an outpouring of anger among black Americans, as well as a period of national mourning that helped speed the way for an equal housing bill that would be the last significant legislative achievement of the civil rights era.” There is no doubt that his life and fighting, his movement and leadership changed history; it changed everything.

Written by John Wilkens from the San Diego Union Tribune, and published in January 15th, 2018, the article “When Martin Luther King Jr. Came to San Diego” informs San Diegans about the specifics of King’s visit just a few weeks before the civil rights legislation was signed into law. This article mentions anthropology Professor Mallios from San Diego State University, who researched about the past visits of Dr. King and his history in the city of San Diego. Point Loma has a kiosk ‘that allows visitors to hear portions of his speech’, and SDSU has the largest plaque on campus dedicated to him that says, “We must learn to live together as brothers or we will perish as fools”. King impacted San Diego’s African American history through inspiring the fight in San Diego. There are several honoring monuments, statues, and centers dedicated to Martin Luther King in San Diego; honoring his leadership and accomplishments. Dr. King’s efforts to fight segregation and inequality impacted on many families, youth, and humanity in the entire world. Black San Diegans changed the history of their hometown; Martin Luther King changed San Diego.


Works Cited

Alumni  from San Diego State University. “50th Anniversary Commemoration Set for April

30th.” Journal of San Diego State University, Alumni

E. Cook, Anthony. “Beyond Critical Legal Studies: The Reconstructive Theology of Dr. Martin

Luther King, Jr.” Harvard Law Review, Volume 103. March 1990.

History Authors. “King, Martin Luther, Jr.” Encyclopedia of U.S. Political History, A&E

Television Networks November 9, 2009. doi:10.4135/9781608712380.n615.

Mallios, Seth. Campbell, Breana. “On The Cusp of An American Civil Rights Revolution: Dr.

Martin Luther King, Jr’s Final Visit and Address to San Diego in 1964.” Journal of San Diego History. Spring 2015, Vol. 61 Issue 2, p375-410. 36p. Accessed April 11, 2019.

Wilkens, John. “When Martin Luther King Jr. Came to San Diego.” San Diego Union Tribune,

January 15h, 2018.


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