On November 21st 1960, Martin Luther King Jr. came to Naperville. King was invited to speak and meet with students at North Central College by the college’s first chaplain Reverend George St. Angelo.
This month marks the 60th anniversary of that visit. Naperville Magazine editor Michelle Dellinger hosted a panel discussion via Zoom to discuss the historic event.
The discussion comes in tandem with the “Living Legacy” story in the magazine’s November issue, featuring an extensive history on King’s visit, written by Dave Hoekstra
Hoekstra and Reverend St. Angelo’s daughter Tina Wenzel were two of several panelists at the virtual event, where the historical significance of King’s visit and speeches at North Central College were discussed.
“It’s that kind of a call from the college, to transform itself to transform its denomination and then to transform the community that I think is really important for us to be thinking about,” said Dr. Ann Keating, Author and History Professor at North Central College.
During King’s visit in 1960, Naperville was a ‘sundown town’ and was not without racial discrimination in housing practices. Though progress has been made in town since 1960, panelists discussed the racism in Naperville’s past and present, and how best to combat it in the future.
“A lot of this really comes down to empathy. It’s such the key word, but in order to develop empathy, there’s an education that ahs to take place as well. Where individuals have to get out and learn and listen. Listen more than talk. But if we want to understand the struggle that Black Americans are going through or have gone through, then you’ve gotta listen so that you can have that empathy. At the end of the day, you may not agree with everything, but I think if you really listen you’re gonna agree with a lot of things,” said Dr. Benjamin White, of Naperville City Council.
Naperville News 17’s Ryan Skryd reports.
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