On 5 March 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. along with Kentucky civil rights leaders, led a 10,000-person march up Capitol Avenue in Frankfort, Kentucky towards the Kentucky capitol. The marchers were urging for the passage of a public accommodations bill that had been introduced in January to the Kentucky House of Representatives. The bill, much like the one that was proposed by President Kennedy a year earlier, would end segregation in Kentucky in the area of public accommodations such as retail stores, restaurants and educational institutions.
The march was coordinated by members of the Allied Organization for Civil Rights (AOCR); Frank Stanley, Jr., editor of The Louisville Defender; Olof Anderson, Synod Executive of the Presbyterian Church; and Georgia Davis Powers, who later became the first African American and the first woman to be elected to the Kentucky State Senate in 1967. Many national prominent figures were also in attendance, including Ralph Abernathy, Jackie Robinson and the folk singers Peter, Paul and Mary. When the mass of people arrived at the capitol they sang songs and many people gave speeches, including King.
Later that day march organizers and civil rights leaders met with Kentucky Governor Edward T. Breathitt to discuss the bill. He assured them that he would work very hard to have the civil rights bill passed, but warned them that he was new to office and was not sure how much power and respect he had. Despite the efforts of Governor Breathitt and civil rights leader, the bill was not passed in in 1964. The march became a catalyst for a future bill that would be passed in 1966. On 27 January 1966 Governor Breathitt signed the Kentucky Civil Rights bill, making Kentucky the first state south of the Mason-Dixon line to have a state Civil Rights Act.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Frankfort.
Explore the links below and discover photographs, oral history interviews and more information related to the March on Frankfort:
1. University of Louisville Libraries Blog
2. Kentucky Historical Society Oral History Project
Governor Breathitt speaks about the first time he met King and his thoughts on the march.
3.Georgia Davis Powers speaks on the March on Frankfort