Civil Rights Activist Anna Mae Weems remembers MLK's Waterloo vi - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Civil Rights Activist Anna Mae Weems remembers MLK's Waterloo visit

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Nine years before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was right here in the Cedar Valley, speaking at Waterloo West High School and meeting with community church leaders.

It was 1959, at the time many people, including those here in Waterloo, didn't know who Dr. King was.  He came as a preacher and a friend of civil rights activist, Anna Mae Weems.

A newspaper Anna Mae saved from that day is now yellowed and the edges are torn, but 58 years later, the memory of Dr. King's visit to Waterloo is crystal clear in her mind.  In fact, Dr. King even stayed at Anna Mae's home.

"I got the kids out of the bunk bed and Martin Luther King slept in the bunk bed," recalled Anna Mae.

After bringing him to Waterloo, black church leaders told Anna Mae they would no longer meet with the preacher.

"I said, 'What happened?' We heard and we were reading that people are dying marching behind him," explained Anna Mae.

The church leaders eventually met with Dr. King.

"He went to Allen Hospital. He went to West High School. He made all the rounds, but he was just a preacher," said Anna Mae. "The children were spellbound. He was the kind of person; when I met Doctor King, Doctor King just starts talking to you. He is blessed. He is a man that is blessed to be able to reach you, and you feel that you have accomplished something."

On the old newspaper, a headline reads, "Get the news others won't let you read." It is a glimpse of what Dr. King and his followers were fighting for; a voice.

A path to equality that Anna Mae says stalled the day Dr. King was killed.

"He left a blueprint for us. What are we going to do with the blueprint? I am wondering, am I sad because of his death?  Am I sad because I think we have not moved as far as I think we could have moved?" said Anna Mae.

After a lifetime as a civil rights activist, Anna Mae says it still comes down to one thing.

"It is difficult to say, 'I want you to love that person and that person.' You don't know them. We don't know each other, that is why we don't get along," said Anna Mae.

She says King's visit did create a ripple in the Cedar Valley, but she says the work is not done.

Anna Mae is 92-years-old and still active in eastern Iowa politics and civil rights.  Dr. King's visit and Anna Mae's work is part of a rich civil rights history in Waterloo.

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