FRANKFORT, Ky. (FOX 56) – March will mark 59 years since civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. marched on Frankfort and soon a new project will be unveiled preserving memories of the march for future generations.
On March 5, 1964, a crowd of more than 10,000 marched on the Kentucky Capitol. The day was filled with music and speeches for freedom. The 1964 Civil Rights Act wouldn’t be signed by President Lyndon B. Johnson for another four months.
“There was a public accommodations bill before the General Assembly and the march was intended to draw attention towards that bill or that piece of legislation to let the legislators know how important civil rights was and by having business owners and by having martin Luther king there it made quite a splash,” Greg Hardison, creative engagement specialist for the Kentucky Historical Society, told FOX 56.
Restaurants, hotels, and many other businesses could still legally turn black people away, and even after the march that remained the case. The bill failed, but supporters went back to the drawing board.
When the legislature met again two years later, Kentucky became the first southern state to pass its own civil rights legislation.
“Dr. King called the 1966 Kentucky Civil Rights Act the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights act of any southern state. So Kentucky should be really proud of that and the march on Frankfort helped make that happen,” Joanna Hay told FOX 56.
Hay specializes in oral histories, documentaries, and designing exhibitions with her own production company.
Two years ago, she and a team began an oral history project interviewing people that were there that day and recalling their experiences. One of those interviewees was Rev Louis Newby who marched right behind King.
“So, I got right behind him. And he was very friendly and he said, ‘You falling?’ I said, ‘You’re the first to know.’ And so, we both laughed. And so, we marched on together,” Newby said in the interview.
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“These interviews included a lot of high school students who talked about skipping school, walking to the march if they lived in Frankfort. Coming with church buses from other towns,” Hay said.
A handful of souvenir programs are among the few surviving artifacts from that day, but now the memories are being preserved for another generation.
The work of the oral project is all contained in a website that also includes lesson plans for teachers across several grade levels about the march.
An official event unveiling the project will happen on the anniversary of the march next month, but those interested can go ahead and take a sneak peek now at mlkmarchonfrankfort.com.