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Man’s walk to Petersburg will recreate civil rights struggle

Published 10:22pm Thursday, March 28, 2013

A Petersburg man will walk from Suffolk to his hometown next week to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s visit to Suffolk in 1963.

Carl Winfield’s three-day journey will take place over the 45th anniversary of King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. In addition to honoring King, he is protesting what he sees as current injustices against black people in Petersburg and Prince George County.

Winfield said he marched with King during several of the civil rights leader’s visits to Virginia, including the one to Suffolk in June 1963 for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

“I want to give Dr. King the honor that he deserves for helping people,” Winfield said.

He plans to begin his walk at the old Obici Hospital site and head up Route 460 all the way to Petersburg. Winfield says he walked from Petersburg to Washington, D.C., four years ago on King’s birthday, and this will be the prequel to that walk.

“It’s all adding up into my life that he wants me to finish my journey,” Winfield said.

Winfield said he plans to fast during the walk but will carry water with him to ensure he does not get dehydrated.

Upon arrival in Petersburg, he hopes to campaign to get a new library in Petersburg named after Wyatt T. Walker, who led a sit-in at a segregated public library there in 1960. He also hopes to press for converting part of a Petersburg bus station into a civil rights museum, then traveling to Prince George to urge city leaders to approve a group of businesses proposed by a black man.

“This walk means a lot to me,” said Winfield, who invites anyone to join him. “If people want to join us in Petersburg to do a little walk, come with us.”

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  • Peanutbred

    But, Martin Luther King did not “march” in Suffolk, or in Norfolk, for that matter. After arriving at Norfolk Airport, on Friday, June 28, 1963, at about 3:30 p.m., he was driven to the Golden Triangle, where he met with the Executive Board of the State Southern Christian Leadership Conference, at 4 p.m.

    Running a bit late from that meeting, he arrived in Suffolk, shortly after 6 p.m., and held a press conference, at Local Union No. 26 headquarters, on East Washington Street. King then ate dinner, and was driven to Peanut Park, where he eventually spoke to a large gathering, estimated between 4,000 and 5,000, at about 8:30 p.m., prior to which there was a bit of a kerfuffle over his $10,000 fee, refusing to get out of the car until he was paid. During the delay, the collective choir made up of members of area black churches improvised a bit, while the proverbial hat was passed.

    I’m not sure where Carl Winfield’s fuzzy history figured in all of that, as he was but 15 – maybe 16 – at the time of King’s visit to Suffolk.

    While King visited Petersburg seven times, including in 1960, 1962, and in 1965, when he spoke at Virginia State and denounced the Vietnam War, he never actually marched there, either, although he may have marched in Colonial Heights, on March 28, 1962, but that is not very likely. In fact, I cannot recall a single march in Virginia nor could I find a record of any.

    Winfield may have been a local coordinator with the SCLC, in 1968, when he was an adult, but its records don’t go that deep.

    Finally, a January 22, 2013, article in the Progress-Index has Winfield marching with King, during a planned march for the Poor People’s Campaign, from Petersburg to Washington, which was to have been held in late April of 1968. But, of course, that never happened, as King was killed on April 4.

    Revising history, for whatever reason, only complicates the matter.

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    • suffolk legal

      I am being honest…are you serious? MLK wouldn’t get out of his car until he was paid $10,000? Or did I read that wrong? If that is true, what a jerk. Civil rights my a$$. More like money-hungry!

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      • Peanutbred

        The Peanut Park rally featuring Martin Luther King, Jr., was a sponsored, booked event, much like a performance at, say, the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts today.

        The sponsors – which means those organizations that undertook the financial obligation for renting the park, providing security, and paying King for his appearance – were the Independent Voters League, founded by Moses Riddick; Local Union No. 26 (now No. 2426)UAW and its credit union, headed by Locke Parker; and the Nansemond-Suffolk Branch of the NAACP, led by Ruby Walden.

        They were a bit short in their fund-raising efforts to bring King to town. While I cannot say for sure what they were thinking, it is likely that Riddick, a bit of a tap-dancing poser, thought he could finesse the situation, but King was not about to be flimflammed by the locals.

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