Signed Image of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1962 Event Program, Where at Age 33 He Was Honored as the “Champion of Civil Rights in the South”

The award ceremony was hosted by the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity, at its first President's Award Night, held at Irvine Auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania

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The Philadelphia region was an important place in Martin Luther King’s formative years from the age of 19, and was also where he built important alliances and conducted civil rights activities. This Philadelphia connection in King’s life shows the development of King’s southern strategy with northern supporters, particularly in the African American...

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Signed Image of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a 1962 Event Program, Where at Age 33 He Was Honored as the “Champion of Civil Rights in the South”

The award ceremony was hosted by the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity, at its first President's Award Night, held at Irvine Auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania

The Philadelphia region was an important place in Martin Luther King’s formative years from the age of 19, and was also where he built important alliances and conducted civil rights activities. This Philadelphia connection in King’s life shows the development of King’s southern strategy with northern supporters, particularly in the African American community.

In 1948 King entered Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania (just outside of Philadelphia), and studied there for three years. King also audited courses at the nearby University of Pennsylvania. It was in Philadelphia in 1949 that he became a disciple of the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. In December 1958, King delivered a sermon at Bright Hope Baptist Church, 12th and Oxford Streets, where he told the audience, “Segregation is dead, but the time of the funeral hasn’t been fixed!” The next year King was in Philadelphia with Rev. Ralph Abernathy at a fundraising drive to help Southern leaders in their all-out effort to get Negroes registered and voting. In 1961 King was in Philadelphia six times, once speaking at the Academy of Music.

In April 30, 962, King, Jackie Robinson, Mahalia Jackson, James L. Farmer of the Congress on Racial Equality and Bishop George Baber received citations from the Baptist Minister’s Conference of Philadelphia and Vicinity, at its first President’s Award Night, at Irvine Auditorium at the University of Pennsylvania. King was cited in the program as the “Champion of Civil Rights in the South.” A few days later King spoke at the American Baptist Convention in Philadelphia’s Convention Hall.

This is an original program for the event on April 30 at the University of Pennsylvania, featuring a photograph of the 33-year-old King, and signed by him by his picture in ballpoint pen. We obtained this from the relative of a man who attended the event, and it has never before been seen by the public. Above King’s photo is the signature of a woman named Mary, but the attendee does not recall who she was, and we have not determined her identity.

This is the first signed program of King we have ever carried, and it is particularly interesting to note that by 1962 – at age 33 – he was already considered the leader of the civil rights struggle in the South.

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