CLEVELAND — It’s an honor whenever a person like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wants to visit your church. Rev. Marvin McMickle said his church got the opportunity twice.

What You Need To Know

  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Cleveland on several occasions

  • Antioch Baptist Church and St. Paul's Episcopal Church are among the places where King gave speeches in Cleveland

  • Rev. Marvin McMickle said King's trips to Ohio demonstrate his concerns for racism and segregation in northern states

“The first time Dr. King came was in 1963. It was right after the Birmingham, Ala. campaign when the issue was trying to create enough energy for the Civil Rights [Act] of 1964,” McMickle said. “The second time he came was in 1964, when he installed here, as a new pastor, a man named Kelly Miller Smith Sr.”

McMickle is the interim pastor at Antioch Baptist Church. He said King’s visits to the Cleveland area demonstrate his commitment to ministry nationwide.

“Lots of folks think about Martin King in terms of Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia. This is Ohio, and he was going all over the country because he understood that racism and segregation, and other problems like that are not regional issues. They are, in fact, national,” McMickle said.

McMickle added that he had the chance to meet King at a campaign in Chicago, which like Cleveland, is one of the most segregated cities in the country according to research from The University of California, Berkeley.

“He tried to call attention to that fact so that people in the North would not think that they didn't have any problems and that it was all you know in Alabama, Mississippi or Georgia,” McMickle said. “No, it was in Chicago, Cleveland [and] Detroit.”

Pete Scriven also had the chance to witness King speak when he visited St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland. 

“Well, the fact that he was allowed to be here, in fact, not only allowed, but invited to be here and speak in a white congregation, made a real statement not only for Dr. King, but also for our parish,” Scriven said.

Scriven is a retired history teacher and said his parish was one of the only primarily white congregations at the time that allowed King to give a speech inside of their building, and not on the steps outside.

“I was an eighth grader coming home,” Scriven said.

It’s a moment in history that Scriven said he almost missed.

“And as I saw the parking lot jam packed, I remembered that Dr. King was going to be speaking here at my church,” Scriven said.

He said that he didn’t understand the significance of the occasion because he was only 14 years old at the time. 

“So, I parked my bike outside and I came in down this hallway and this is as far as I could get because the stairs and the hallway was so crowded, the church was packed. And Dr. King had already started speaking, and I stood right here,” Scriven said.

Years later, it’s a memory that still sticks with him vividly.

“I thought it was very neat as a 14 year old to think that of all the places he could be speaking, it was here in my church,” Scriven said.

Back at Antioch Baptist Church, McMickle said he wants people to continue reflecting on the legacy that King left on his visits to the area.

“To use Black History Month as an opportunity to remind ourselves where we were, where we are, and then consider are we going to go back or are we going to go forward?”