Each year on January 20, people all over the United States celebrate the birthday of one of America's most important civil rights leaders, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

This year, Sioux Falls celebrated in a special way as a statue of Dr. King was unveiled in Van Eps Park as a tribute to his legacy and his trip to Sioux Falls.

Dakota News Now reports that Dr. King arrived on January 12, 1961.  It was his first trip to South Dakota.  He spoke at a dinner meeting of the Knife and Fork Club at the Cataract Hotel.

Dr. King was not allowed to stay at the Cataract, instead, he stayed at St. John's First Baptist Church.

That church was located in approximately the same place that Van Eps Park is today.

"Black history is American history, so it's extremely important for people in Sioux Falls, in particular, to know our history, to know our place in history,” said Julian Beaudion, Assistant Director of the South Dakota African-American Museum.

Two years later Dr. King gave his iconic, "I have a dream" speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

"It is really to honor a great man, I mean Martin Luther King Jr. was, I don't really know of any black person that compares to Martin Luther King Jr.,” said Artist Porter Williams, the statue's creator.

The nearly 1,500-pound statue is already in the park, with an arm extended out so you can shake the hand of Dr. King.

Sign Up for Our Newsletter

Enter your email to receive the latest news and information directly to your inbox!