MLK – The Role of San Francisco in the ‘60s Civil Rights Movement

Martin Luther King Day in San Francisco

With its racially diverse population and long-standing spirit of activism, it’s no surprise the Bay Area figured prominently in the nationwide civil rights movement during the 1960s. As we prepare to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day here in San Francisco—and we invite you to call Tilden Hotel your home here for the occasion—let’s take a (woefully) brief survey of some of the local manifestations of that fight for racial equality.

Civil Rights Events & Programs in San Francisco

San Francisco saw may protests, demonstrations, and civic initiatives during the civil rights era, reflecting both local issues and others thousands of miles away at the center of the social and political movement. Organizations such as the NAACP, the U.C. Berkeley Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality, and the Ad Hoc Committee to End Discrimination organized pickets and sit-ins to protest racially discriminatory hiring practices and segregated schools and businesses, while other rallies sought to draw attention to events in the American South and at the national level.

For example, an estimated 15,000 people took part in the Freedom March in San Francisco, organized by local churches and labor groups in support of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Birmingham Campaign. Some 2,500 people marched on Post Street in San Francisco to decry the September 1963 bombing of the Sixteenth Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, which killed four African-American girls. About 40,000 people participated in a Human Rights March on Market Street on July 12th, 1964, protesting Senator Barry Goldwater as the Republican nominee for president because of his position on civil rights. In March 1965, protesters gathered in front of San Francisco’s City Hall in response to the violent crackdown by state troopers on African-American marchers in Selma, Alabama.

Dr. King Visits Town

Dr. King paid a visit to the City by the Bay in May 1964 to muster support for passage of the Civil Rights Act by the Senate, and to counter attempts to repeal California’s Rumford Fair Housing Act, passed the year before to remedy issues of racial discrimination and segregation in housing.

Marking Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in San Francisco

San Francisco is a fine place to mark Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, which falls this year on Monday, January 20th. Dr. King’s legacy will be celebrated across a number of days, in fact, with a variety of services on tap, the King & Faith Interreligious Symposium at the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples on January 18th and 19th, the Black & Brown Comix Arts Festival, and a large parade and march on the holiday itself, which follows a 1.5-mile route between Caltrain Station and Yerba Buena Gardens. The latter location, which hosts one of the largest Martin Luther King, Dr. memorials in the country, will be holding a number of events on the heels of the parade, including featured programs and a music festival. Check out a full schedule of events here.

Join us at Tilden Hotel this month to honor the legacy of a great man, and reflect on the history of the civil rights movement in the Bay Area!