Did you know Martin Luther King visited Puerto Rico?

Martin Luther King Jr. (AP Photo)

By Mivette Vega

January 11, 2024

King had another connection with Puerto Rico: He was friends with the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s fight for social justice not only resonated with the Black community, but also with Latinos.

The activist visited Puerto Rico at least two times, in 1962 and 1965.

In 1962 King gave a speech at the Universidad Interamericana in San Germán, after he was invited by the Fellowship of Reconciliation. King spent two days on the campus, an experience that he described as “delightful.”

“I can assure you that the hours that I spent here shall remain with me in my thoughts…you have extended the warm hand of fellowship and every courtesy…and I can certainly go away knowing that I have been among friends,” King said during his visit.

He also visited the Río Piedras campus of the Universidad de Puerto Rico, on that occasion.

In 1965, after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, King returned to the island to speak at the World Convention of Churches of Christ. During his speech, King publicly denounced and broke the evangelical silence on the Vietnam War, according to reports.

King had another connection with Puerto Rico: He was friends with the legendary Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente.

The Pittsburgh Pirates’ right fielder expressed his admiration for King on several occasions. And on one of his visits to Puerto Rico, the activist visited Clemente’s farm on the island.

“When Martin Luther King started doing what he did, he changed the whole system of the American style. He put the people, the ghetto people, the people who didn’t have anything to say in those days, they started saying what they would have liked to say for many years that nobody listened to,” Clemente said in an interview by that time.

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Clemente was devastated when King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968.

He convinced his teammates to honor King by postponing the Pirates and Astros from opening their season on Apri, the day before King’s burial. Instead, they opened on April 10 in observance of King’s memorial service. 

 

Author

  • Mivette Vega

    Mivette Vega is a seasoned journalist and multimedia reporter whose stories center the Latino community. She is passionate about justice, equality, environmental matters, and animals. She is a Salvadorrican—Salvadorian that grew up in Puerto Rico—that has lived in San Juan, Venice, Italy, and Miami.

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