Community reflects 60 years after MLK’s visit to Mankato

The Kessel Institute at MSU is teaming up with True Façade Pictures to commemorate the anniversary.
Published: Nov. 13, 2021 at 1:18 AM CST
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MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Sixty years ago, some of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous words were spoken to audiences in Mankato.

On Nov. 12, 1961, Dr. King gave three speeches: two at Centenary United Methodist Church and one at Mankato High School, now known as Mankato West.

Early that morning, he flew into the Mankato Regional Airport and was escorted to the church where he delivered a sermon titled “The Good Neighbor” twice.

“Mankato was an almost entirely white community in 1961. A lot of people in that audience had probably never seen or met an African American person before. I think that’s a very powerful moment, to see themselves reflected in this Good Samaritan parable, to realize that possibly they’re not the good Samaritan, they are the person that walked by the injured person and didn’t stop,” explained Dr. Jameel Haque, an Associate Professor, Undergraduate Coordinator and the director of the Kessel Peace Institute at Minnesota State University.

That afternoon at the school, Dr. King gave a lecture titled “Facing the Challenge of a New Age” to a crowd of about 1,200 people.

It was the only speech recorded during his visit.

“The line was out the door to see him. There were so many people in this community that wanted to hear his message,” added Ryan Sturgis, owner and producer of True Façade Pictures.

But despite the community’s interest, Dr. King did not feel safe in Mankato.

Strugis said, “We kind of have this sense of righteousness that we don’t have discrimination here like they do in the south. That’s because we don’t have the diversity here like we have in the south.”

Haque stated, “Martin Luther King Jr. was flanked by his bodyguards the entire time he was here, even when he was delivering his speech. I think that’s an important thing to remember, that he did not feel safe in Mankato. Here is a man who has dedicated his life to putting his body physically in danger for the things that he believes in. The fact that he did not feel safe in Mankato is worth noting.”

Sixty years later, the Kessel Institute for the Study of Peace and Change at MSU and True Façade Pictures are teaming up to commemorate Dr. King’s visit.

A new film will highlight his powerful message denouncing discrimination and otherness, which are problems we are still fighting today.

“We still have to do the same work that Martin Luther King was asking the people of his time to do,” Sturgis mentioned.

The film will officially debut in January on MLK Day, but True Façade Pictures has released a five-minute clip to celebrate the anniversary.

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