Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Visits Liberty County
Liberty County holds a little-known secret that made a major impact all across the country. Dorchester Academy in Midway was the planning ground for the historic Birmingham March of 1963. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along with a few other civil rights leaders, stayed at Dorchester Academy to plan the historic march. In fact, this National Landmark has a museum filled to the brim with African-American history and was once the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement in Liberty County.
Established by the American Missionary Association in 1870, Dorchester Academy became the first place of education for newly freed slaves in Liberty County. Physical freedom had been granted and Dorchester’s mission was to grant freedom of the mind. The school flourished and by 1903, enrollment was above 450.
It continued to be a source of education even after its closing in 1940. Dorchester Academy functioned as the primary site of the Citizenship Education Program, sponsored by the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Dorchester would then go on to play an extremely important role in the planning of “Project C”, The Birmingham March. Dr. King, along with other Civil Rights activists including Andrew Young, Dr. Ralph Abernathy and Septima Clark coordinated their efforts using the academy as a base of operations.
There is a special sense of awe when you step foot on the historic campus of Dorchester Academy. Residents of Liberty County in the 1960s probably didn’t realize that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would bring such change to Liberty County and the United States. Dorchester Academy provided a place of refuge for him from the impending Civil Rights battle underway. The museum houses artifacts from his time there, and the room where he stayed in the boys’ dormitory is preserved and open to the public for viewing. The extensive collection of various artifacts and documents gives details of the journey of African-Americans in Liberty County from slavery to emancipation to the Civil Rights Movement and into the present day.