Skip to content Skip to navigation

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of King's Berlin Trip

Photograph of King standing next to the Berlin Wall

King denounces Berlin Wall as a "dividing wall of hostility" after learning that East German resident Michael Meyer had been shot multiple times at this site while attempting to escape to West Berlin. King also met with the American soldier who risked his life to rescue Meyer.

Oct 6 2014

King Institute Director Clayborne Carson traveled to Berlin to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King's September 1964 visit to both sides of the Berlin Wall that divided the city. Organized by Berliner Festspiele, "Ein Tag für … Martin Luther King, Jr." took place on Sunday, 5 October 2014. More than three hundred people attended Carson's keynote address as well as the following discussions and musical performances.

Carson asserted that King's remarks while in Berlin demonstrated his longstanding determination to address not only civil rights issues but also global problems such as poverty and war. He noted that King's visit came more than seventy years after pioneering Pan-African and civil rights advocate W. E. B. Du Bois came to Berlin for his doctoral studies. Carson pointed out that Du Bois, who died on the eve of King's "I Have a Dream" speech, "was, like King, a global visionary who saw racial oppression in the United States as interrelated with other kinds of oppression elsewhere in the world."

Carson also noted the significance of Daddy King's 1934 trip to Berlin to attend the World Baptist Alliance meeting. After returning from this gathering in the homeland of the founder of Protestantism, the senior King decided to change his name and that of his son from Michael King to Martin Luther King. "Thus we can see that Berlin was partly responsible for Martin Luther King, Jr., becoming the man we celebrate today," Carson remarked.

Michael M. Shultz, a Berlin resident who attended King's sermon at St. Marienkirche guided Carson on a tour of the places where King had been fifty years earlier. He recalled that the church was filled with church members eager to hear King and that King was afterwards rushed to nearby Sophienkirche, where another capacity crowd was waiting.  Shultz also showed Carson the plaques that have been erected at the places King visited. Several Berlin school teachers have encouraged their students to contribute to a "KING CODE" website retracing King's activities in Berlin.

Posted in: 
Clayborne Carson, King Institute