Two years before his seismic “I Have A Dream” speech, Martin Luther King Jr made a visit to Bloomsbury in London and spoke at the Central Baptist Church in 1961. He would, of course, continue to be one of the most important activists in the US Civil Rights movement right up to his assassination in 1968.
His work and his words have lived on, and almost 63 years after he visited London, the city is becoming the first in the UK to honour Martin Luther King with a blue heritage plaque. Camden Council and the Nubian Jak Community Trust worked together to make this happen, and it also becomes the first blue plaque to be put up on a place of worship – and it’s the first commemorative plaque to be unveiled in 2024!
The plaque reads: “The first sermon on British soil by The Reverand Dr Martin Luther King (1929-1968) was preached here at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church in October 1961.”
Why did Martin Luther King visit London?
Martin Luther King flew to London in October 1961 to give a speech at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church on Shaftesbury Avenue, which said people should live lives of “equal length, breadth, and height”.
It was the first of two visits to the city for Martin Luther King, his second coming in 1964 when he delivered a sermon at St Paul’s Cathedral called “The Three Dimensions of a Complete Life”, which encouraged the public to “be the best of whatever you are”.
Camden Council unveiled the plaque alongside members of the community, the Mayor of Camden, and cabinet members yesterday (January 24). A speech was given to mark the unveiling by Jonathan Eig, who wrote the well-known biography The King, which was followed by a performance from Impact Dance and music from Vocal Shack.
Find the first blue heritage plaque honouring Martin Luther King at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church (235 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8EP).