Friday, January 16, 2015

Shock Period

In early 1957, Martin Luther King, Jr. visited New Orleans. He spoke at a number of venues, including the Coliseum Arena (401 North Roman Street) and the New Zion Baptist Church (2319 Third Street, shown above).

On February 1st, he addressed a large audience that filled the Coliseum. Sponsored by the United Clubs, Inc., King's lecture focused on integration and non-violence, and warned of the reappearance of the Ku Klux Klan in the guise of White Citizens Councils.(1)

On Valentine's Day, King proclaimed a "shock period" in the nation's move towards integration. Earlier that day, members of the Southern Negro Leadership Council met at the New Zion Baptist Church to elect King its first president. At that meeting, the group voted to drop the word "Negro" from its name, and drafted a telegram to President Eisenhower requesting that he reconsider his refusal to address southern lawlessness, suggesting that the alternative would be a mass pilgrimage to the nation's capital.  In his public address that evening, King referred to segregation as a cancer, 'slavery covered up with artificial niceties of complexity.' (2)

New Zion had been constructed under the direction of Reverend Abraham Lincoln Davis, Jr., president of the Ideal Missionary Baptist and Educational Association. Architects Nolan, Norman and Nolan designed the modern structure after World War II.

(1)"King Predicts Victory for Integration by 1963." The Times-Picayune 2 February 1957.

(2)"Speak, Negroes Again Urge Ike." The Times-Picayune 15 February 1957.

Image above: Nolan, Norman & Nolan, architects. Front Elevation; New Zion Baptist Church, 2319 Third Street, New Orleans, LA. Job No. 822. Nolan, Norman & Nolan Office Records, Southeastern Architectural Archive, Special Collections Division, Tulane University Libraries.

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