Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy in Portland

A statue of MLK with the American flag in the background

”The Dream” sculpture outside of the Oregon Convention Center. | Photo via jpellgen (@1179_jp)

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Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday observed every year on the third Monday of January. We’re breaking down King’s presence in the Rose City and what you can do to honor his life and legacy.

How is MLK connected to Portland?

On the morning of Nov. 8, 1961, King delivered a press conference to gathered reporters in Portland, followed by a speech in a crowded Civic Auditorium downtown. To 3,500 listeners, he said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish as fools,” adding that segregation is “slavery covered up with nothing but the niceties of complexities.” He also visited Vancouver Avenue First Baptist Church + Portland State University.

Does the city have a dedication to King?

The biggest homage to King’s legacy is Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard on Portland’s east side. In 1987, a community group began the process to rename Union Avenue in honor of the civil rights leader with 4,000 signatures — but the road was less than smooth. Despite opposition, on Apr. 20, 1989, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance officially changing the name.

A sculpture titled “The Dream” was also unveiled outside the Oregon Convention Center on Apr. 28, 1998, the 35th anniversary of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

How to commemorate MLK Day

Service and community were essential themes in King’s work. Consider getting involved with a local social justice program, joining a volunteer initiative, or attending one of these MLK Day events.