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St. Louis Remains A Stronghold For Dr. King's Dream

Joseph Leahy / St. Louis Public Radio
Marchers celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. on Grand Blvd. outside Powell Hall.

Thousands of St. Louis-area residents celebrated the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with ceremonies, music and marches over the three-day weekend.

Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis hosted readings on Monday of King's writings, sermons and speeches from the same pulpit where he once preached 50 years ago.

The slain civil rights leader was also celebrated at the Old Courthouse downtown where, more than 160 years ago, slaves waged a legal battle for freedom. The crowd in the rotunda at the historic building was among the largest in several years, spilling out onto Market Street.

Following the event at the Old Courthouse, the crowd marched nearly three miles west to attend an interfaith service at Powell Hall.

Near the end of the route, Willie Jones of the health advocacy group Heart-to-Heart was among a number of vendors selling buttons featuring historic black figures.

Jones said business for the buttons is always most brisk on Martin Luther King Day.

“Trayvon [Martin] has been going pretty good. Obama and Mandela have been going pretty good,” he said. “Mandela and King have been going pretty good, but King is always the most popular. King is always the most popular.”

Inside Powell Hall, Reverend Keith Cornelius of the Rock Chapel AME Church said the achievements of King's civil rights movement cannot be forgotten. 

"We thank him for his fight. We thank him for his tenacity. We thank him for his fight for equality across this country,” he said. “For without Martin Luther King Jr. you and I would not be able to do the things that we are doing today."

In 1971, St. Louis became one of the first cities in the U.S. to adopt a holiday honoring King.