Today in history: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at this KCK high school

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Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers a speech to a crowd on October 16, 1965 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — On June 20, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to about 1,000 people in the then Sumner High School auditorium.

He spoke for the Kansas City, Kansas branch of the NAACP.

The Wyandotte County Museum said King speaking at Sumner in 1958 has been an interesting dispute in Wyandotte County history with some saying there was a last minute change in location and King spoke at a nearby church instead of the high school.

Amy Loch with the museum said she asked Chester Owens, who graduated from Sumner in 1949 about this once, and he confirmed King did speak at Sumner.

According to an article from the former Kansas City Times published the day after the event on June 21, 1958, King missed a plane connection in Omaha and was about an hour late.

King told the local Black community that they “must hate segregation and injustice but that this hate must not include the segregationist, stating that segregation is doomed and only the date of burial remains to be determined.”

The article also mentions King being the leader of the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.

Sumner High School was a segregated school for Black students from 1905 until 1978. It was named Sumner in honor of Charles Sumner (1811-1884) who was a member of the United States Senate and was a very strong abolitionist who fought for the rights of Black people.

The high school closed in 1978 and students were reassigned as part of court-ordered desegregation. It reopened the same year as Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, a magnet school for highly motivated and academically talented students.

Sumner was named to the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places in 2005.

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