Dr. King and the Hawaiian Lei Worn by Marchers from Selma

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Hawai'i Forward


When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped lead a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, many of the leaders wore Hawaiian lei. The story of how these marchers ended up with the lei is surprisingly modest and simple.

One version of the story is that the Rev. Abraham Akaka sent the lei to Dr. King. Since Rev. Akaka was a giant figure in the Aloha State, it fits that these two icons might know each other. Dr. King paid a visit to Honolulu in 1959 to address the state legislature. Rev. Akaka also served as the first chair of the Hawai’i Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights and lobbied for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

noa-back-in-hawaii338It turns out that the lei were delivered by a small group of kama’aina (photo right) who flew to Alabama to join the march: Glenn Izutsu, student body president at the…

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