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Welcome to Friends of MLK, Inc.

The Friends of MLK (FoMLK) is a non-profit corporation organized exclusively to empower and encourage the Quad City area to practice the civil and human rights for all races, colors, and creeds as exemplified by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  


Board of Directors:

Chief Executive Officer – Ryan Saddler

Chief Operating Officer – Michael Guster

Board of Directors:

Charlene Upchurch-Taylor

Kiajuana Lawton

Shirleen Martin

Vera Kelly

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FoMLK began as a task force initiated by Pastor Rogers Kirk and former Davenport Mayor Bill Gluba. The mission was to recommend a way for the City of Davenport and its citizens to commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. King. It was the recommendation of the task force to the City to use a lot on 5th St. between Brady and Perry streets for the development of Davenport, Iowa’s Martin Luther King Memorial Park.

FoMLK was chartered in April of 2016. Your donation will assist us in the building of the MLK Interpretive Center and Plaza, expected to open in 2017.

Why are we located at 5th and Brady St.?

  1. The property was the location of mixed race restaurant, entertainment, and rooming houses from at least 1880's to the 1940's.

  2. Linsey Pitts was a former slave from Missouri and a veteran from the Civil War.  Pitts worked as a laborer and a barber.  He eventually, opened the very first African American saloon at 120 East Fifth Street. His business was the first African American owned business on this property. 

  3. The area along 5th Street was derogatorily called "Africa Row," "Darktown Row," or "Ethiopia" by local newspapers

  4. The area was frequented by famished African-American train passengers getting off the train at the nearby Chicago, Pacific, and Rock Island Depot.

  5. The property is possibly the location of the Blue Bird Tavern, a legendary hot jazz and dance spot in the "Black" part of town. Legend has it that young talent such as Bix Beiderbecke also performed here after hours.

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“I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character”

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