The Fort Wayne Public Art Commission dedicated Pillars of Hope and Justice, a public art monument commemorating the June 5, 1963, visit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Fort Wayne, during which he gave a speech sharing his vision for nonviolent resistance.
At a public event Monday evening, King’s son, Martin Luther King III, was on hand to help city and community leaders dedicate the monument, which is located at the northwest corner of West Main and Ewing streets in downtown Fort Wayne. King was joined in making remarks at the dedication event by Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry, sculpture artists Shane Allbritton and Norman Lee, the Rev. Dr. Bill McGill of Imani Baptist Church, and City Council members Michelle Chambers and Russ Jehl.
On February 4, 2020, Fort Wayne City Council passed a resolution sponsored by Chambers and Jehl initiating a process for the creation of a public display commemorating the words and visit of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to Fort Wayne in 1963. City Council recognizes the social value of memorializing Dr. King’s dream of racial equality and harmony.
The dedication ceremony was followed by a 60th Anniversary Celebration held in the USF Robert Goldstine Performing Arts Center (the former Scottish Rite Auditorium, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his 1963 speech). The celebration included further remarks from guest of honor Martin Luther King III and from Mayor Henry; information on the reconstruction of Dr. King’s speech from Todd Pelfrey, Executive Director of the History Center; and a recitation of King’s speech by Rev. McGill.
It also included the performances by the Fort Wayne Community Choir and the debut of a newly commissioned musical piece, “Transcendence,” created by Derek Reeves, Principal Violist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic. Reeves was joined by pianist Alicia Pyle for the performance.
King’s Fort Wayne speech was part of a critical sequence of speeches from “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on April 16, 1963 to “The Great March to Freedom” on June 23, 1963 to “I Have a Dream” on the National Mall on August 28, 1963. Because a complete, fully recorded version of his speech was not known to exist, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society collected, assembled and ordered all documented remarks, as repeated in area newspapers.
The design and creation of Pillars of Hope and Justice was made possible with funds from the City of Fort Wayne; Harriett Inskeep; The Journal Gazette Foundation; The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation Fund, a fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Fort Wayne; and the Fort Wayne Public Art Commission.
The sculpture dedication and 60th Anniversary Celebration were made possible through partnership with the Fort Wayne Public Art Commission; the City of Fort Wayne; Arts United; the Canterbury School’s Jonathan Hancock Lecture Series; the University of Saint Francis; and Sweetwater.
In 2018, Mayor Henry and City Council created the Public Art Commission and Public Art Program. Councilmen Glynn Hines and Tom Freistroffer sponsored the legislation. The Art Commission is tasked with commissioning, reviewing and selecting art to be displayed in public spaces with the goal to enhance the visual environment and strengthen the positive reputation, brand and stature of Fort Wayne and its neighborhoods.