When Martin Luther King was at the home of Charles Lunsford

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Martin Luther King during his 1958 visit to Rochester. Dr. Lunsford is to his left, kneeling.

• January 18, 2015

The man who took the picture is the only one still living.

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King speaking at the Rochester City Club, January 1958

On January 7th, 1958, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Rochester to speak at the Rochester City Club and the Colgate Divinity School. That evening he was invited to a private reception at the home of Dr. Charles T. Lunsford, Rochester’s first known licensed African-American physician. Accompanying King was Rochester Police Officer Charles Price who served as his bodyguard. Ten years earlier Price had become the first African-American police officer in the RPD.

Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Price in his Henrietta home.  Price, now in his 90′s, greeted me with vigor — actually in his Buffalo Soldier uniform on his way to, yes, Buffalo for a reenactment.  There Price showed me a copy of the original photograph which he had taken (the negative, unfortunately, lost).

Price explained that Lunsford had invited the most prominent members of the Rochester black middle class for a reception following King’s talk.  One by one he recalled the participants, all of whom are gone, as would be King only ten years later.

I asked Price how he thought race relations had changed since 1958 when King inspired Rochester and the nation. Some things are better, he brightened. Then, more halting, some things are worse.

He’s right, of course.  Since 1958 Rochester has seen African-American Mayors, Police Chiefs, School Principals and Superintendents. And School # 19 is named for Dr. Lunsford. And people like Price are more than welcome in towns like Henrietta.

On the reverse, segregated schools.  And perpetual urban poverty.

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UPDATE: SEE On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr.

SEE ALSO

On Dr. Charles T. Lunsford and the house where he entertained Martin Luther King Jr.

Revisiting Rochester black history