Contributed content from the Illinois Senate Democrats.
SPRINGFIELD – Nearly 55 years after Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his renowned speech at the Illinois State AFL-CIO’s 8th annual convention, in which he predicted that future generations would look back and honor those who sought to unite the Civil Rights and Labor Movements, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker) is leading an effort to make Dr. King’s words a reality.
Manar filed Senate Joint Resolution 67 this week, calling for a bronze plaque to be placed at the site of the historic address — the soon-to-be restored Illinois State Armory — to commemorate the civil rights icon’s legacy and visit to Springfield.
“Throughout modern history, few other movements have been more effective or more inspiring instruments of justice and equality. The Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement intersected through a timeless message by Dr. King that summons the same hope and vision for a stronger society today as it did in 1965, and it all took place in downtown Springfield,” Manar said. “That’s special and something to be celebrated.”
SJR 67 calls for the bronze plaque to be inscribed with the very words Dr. King spoke at the Armory on Oct. 7, 1965 – words that embrace organizational progress, justice, democracy, and a faith in God.
The speech was recorded and archived by the Illinois State AFL-CIO. Manar worked closely with AFL-CIO President Tim Drea to draft the resolution.
“We applaud Senator Manar for his efforts to celebrate the rich history of the Illinois State Armory. An important part of that history came during the Illinois AFL-CIO Convention in 1965, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a message that resonates 55 years later,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea. “Dr. King’s message of the transformational abilities of the Civil Rights Movement and the Labor Movement working together as a coalition of conscience has forever been memorialized in hearts and minds of our leaders. It is our job to ensure that his legacy is championed for generations to come.”
Manar says the memorial would capture a moment that connected Illinois workers with the national Civil Rights Movement during a pivotal era in American history, while also shedding light on the State Armory’s historic significance.
During the 20th century, the Armory was the site of gubernatorial inaugural addresses, speeches and events featuring historic leaders such as Muhammad Ali and Presidents John F. Kennedy, Harry Truman and Richard Nixon.
Illinois’ latest statewide construction plan sets aside $100 million for renovations to the State Armory, with the goal of restoring the facility as a usable office space and venue for conventions, theater productions, art exhibits, and other events.
“The Civil Rights and Labor Movements were both founded on creeds of justice, equality and human rights. They continue to be charged by solidarity among the disenfranchised classes,” Manar said. “These are principles that we should all strive to advance, in policy and practice. This tribute will serve as a reminder of that duty while celebrating this remarkable moment in state and American history.”