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Summer 1953


In an early visit to Virginia, Dr. King attended and spoke at an interseminary conference at Virginia Union University. King, who was then pursuing a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University, stayed the night in a Virginia Union dormitory guest room. A friend later wrote to King of the “lasting effect” of his two sermons during the visit.

It was at Virginia Union during this time that Dr. King met his friend Wyatt Tee Walker, who would eventually become his chief of staff and lead the Southern Christian Leadership Conference as its first full-time executive director, shaping the course of historic civil rights campaigns.

November 2, 1956


Dr. King concluded the three-day 69th annual convention of the Virginia Teachers Association in the Belgian Building at Virginia Union University, delivering his talk, “Facing the Challenge of a New Age.”

February 27 - March 1, 1957


Returning to Virginia Union University, Dr. King preached, “Remember Who You Are,” “Going Forward by Going Backward,” and “Three Dimensions of a Complete Life,” as part of the university’s annual Week of Prayer.

January 1, 1959


Though Dr. King could not attend the 1959 Pilgrimage of Prayer protesting the closing of Virginia public schools, he sent a letter to churches across the state to participate. King wrote, "Today is a day for great men, great ideas, great movements, a day of new self-esteem and dignity for Negro Americans; a day for all Virginians of good will to speak to our millions of disenfranchised and disinherited brothers all over the world. Virginia, in this critical hour, has the opportunity to give direction and destiny to our troubled South. As Virginia goes, so goes the South, perhaps America, and the world." The January 1, 1959 march was organized by the state NAACP, the Congress for Racial Equality, and the SCLC. A 7-minute pre-recorded message from King was played at the march.

January 1, 1960


Dr. King addressed a crowd of 2,600 at what was then the Mosque Theater, now Altria Theater, during the 1960 Pilgrimage of Prayer rally, urging Governor Almond to open Prince Edward county schools, which were illegally closed and remained so until 1964 in defiance of the Brown v. Board of Education desegregation ruling. The rally culminated in a march on Virginia’s State Capitol.

September 24 - September 27, 1963


As president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Dr. King attended its 7th annual conference in Richmond and spoke on the conference’s final evening in the Belgian Building at Virginia Union University.

King in Richmond information flyer (pdf) »

Beloved Community Conversations

On March 1, 2018, the Virginia Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Commission held a Beloved Community Conversation at Virginia Union University in Richmond, where Dr. King had visited multiple times, reflecting on Dr. King's time in Richmond and asking, "Where do we go from here?" The discussion featured remarks from Benjamin Ragsdale, who gave a firsthand account of meeting Dr. King.

Featuring speakers and panelists Jamar A. Boyd II, VUU graduate student; Senator Henry L. Marsh, III; Delegate Delores McQuinn, 70th District; Benjamin Ragsdale, Civil Rights activist and historian; Dr. Jim Somerville, First Baptist Church of Richmond; Mayor Levar Stoney, City of Richmond; Dr. Corey Walker, VUU Vice President; and Rev. Janie Walker, Richmond Hill. Moderated by Commission Chair Senator Jennifer L. McClellan.