This photograph of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was taken in Columbus, Georgia on July 1, 1958 at the Prince Hall Masonic Lodge. Saint James AME denied Dr. King’s request to speak in their church because of the dangers and because of the political nature of King’s messa ge.
On the evening of July 1, amidst numerous death threats, the Prince Hall Mason’s decided to host Dr. King in their building one block away from Saint James AME on the 800 block of 6th Avenue. He was introduced by a mason from Atlanta in order to reduce the possibility of retaliation from the Ku Klux Klan or other local white supremacists. The Ledger-Enquirer wrote a brief announcement with no mention of any church affiliation, only that King’s appearance was being sponsored by members of the “Masonic group.” With armed Mason’s on the roof of the temple, King gave his speech without incident.
There is no known transcript of King’s speech; however, the Ledger-Enquirer assigned a reporter and photographer, publishing quotes in the following day’s edition, which also ran the headline: “Blast Rocks Negro Home.” The bombing was not a direct attempt at King’s life, rather a socioeconomic message to the Negro population and leadership of Columbus that blacks were not welcomed in their white neighborhoods.
Mrs. Essie Mae Ellison bought the house that was bombed from a white woman, Mrs. Gibson Brooks. As soon as Mrs. Brooks sold the house to Mrs. Ellison in May, 1958, Mrs. Brooks began to get calls from a man identifying himself as Joe Musselwhite. Mr. Musselwhite said he was a real estate official who was going to punish Mrs. Brooks for selling her home to a black person. Mrs. Ellison later reported that: “there had been threats to blow up the negro Masonic Temple where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke on the night of July 1. However,” she continued, “police were believed to be guarding the Masonic temple, so I guess they decided to use the dynamite on me.”
Mrs. Ellison’s house was bombed shortly after midnight the night of Dr. King’s visit. The glass from the windows in her bedroom shattered and landed all over her. After the bombing of the house, Mrs. Brooks received another call saying “the same thing could happen to your house.”
“Columbus Masons to Commemorate Bombing and MLK Speech,” Columbus Ledger-Enquirer, July 4, 2013
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. visited Columbus once in 1958