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January 12 1961 – On This Day In Sioux Falls History, Martin Luther King Jr., the national celebrity, the face of peaceful protest, and the eventual National Hero was right here in Sioux Falls, SD! MLK had swooped into the national spotlight for the first time back in 1955 as a leader of the Alabama Bus Boycott. A book tour, public stabbing, and arrest and harsh sentencing in 1960 as a part of the Atlanta lunch counter sit-ins would cement his place as a national icon and leader of the nation wide Civil rights movement!

Starting in the first few decades of the 1900’s the Sioux Falls Knife and Fork club made it their mission to bring international icons and thought leaders to Sioux Falls to speak, educate, and answer questions for local residents. Martin Luther King Jr. was the highlight of the ’61 lineup of speakers and his visit did not disappoint!Initially it looked like the event might be called off, when MLK was sentenced to 4 months hard labor for “violating the terms of his probation,” and participating in the Atlanta lunch counter sit ins. But due to some political posturing and pressuring by the Kennedy administration, King was released from Prison in time to make his trip to SD!

Although MLK had not yet become the icon we know today, leading marches and giving rousing speeches – local residents had a feeling he was destined to lead America forward in its fight for equality. Martin Luther King jr. Spoke at the now defunct St. John’s Baptist church and spent the evening talking to and inspiring the local African American community. The next day he would give a 12- Minute video interview with Doug Hill of Keloland (Video Link: https://www.keloland.com/…/mlk-jr-interview-in-sioux…/) and speak at the knife and fork club meeting before departing for home.Sioux Falls has truly been blessed to have forward thinking city leaders looking to bring the best and brightest of our time to town!