A Brief History of the DuPage County Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration

Last year we commemorated the 30th Annual and oldest public Celebration of the life and ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in DuPage County. In January 1990, an African American clergy from downstate Illinois was visiting Wheaton. The question was asked how will Dr. King’s birthday be celebrated in this community. The Reverends James F. Miller and Andre Allen, then pastors of DuPage AME Church and Second Baptist Church respectively, did a thorough county-wide search and discovered that no such public acknowledgement was being held. Together, they resolved to initiate the first celebration the following year. The first services were held at Second Baptist Church in Wheaton.

After several years the attendance outgrew that sanctuary and for the next several years they were held in the newly constructed DuPage AME Church, now located in Lisle, Illinois. As attendance continued to grow, the respective churches held their own Dr. King Celebrations with DuPage AME Church attractive worshippers from the southern part of the county and Second Baptist Church from the northern part of the county. Realizing that while adults were celebrating this great history and yet young people were expressing a lack of knowledge of Dr. King’s work, DuPage AME Church discontinued worships and initiated it’s Diversity Institute now in it’s fifth year and attracting nearly 300 school aged youth. The Institute focuses on both civil rights history and human rights issues around the world.

Attendance for the Second Baptist Church Celebration continued to grow and now Gary United Methodist Church of Wheaton, Illinois has graciously hosted the event. This worthy event now attracts celebrants from all over the Western Suburbs, provides scholarships to deserving high school students who exhibit community interest and concern. We continue in the dream of Dr. King, that all persons may life peaceably together and “not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

In this time of COVID we have adapted our celebration for 2021 to be a documentary of the history of our great event. Please join us on January 18, 2021 to watch.

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