Reflecting on the history of Cobo Arena

By Jeffrey Buck

The North American International Auto Show has been in desperate need of more floor space for quite a while. Year after year other venues around the country have added more space and modernized their facilities to stay current in a time when conventions are highly sought after. As Cobo Hall continues its own transformation with added floor space, a new glass facade and several other upgrades, a historic venue has finally met its demise.

Cobo Arena will no longer welcome fans with stadium seating. The building has been gutted for a more flexible open floor plan that better fits the plan for the future of Cobo Hall. With its transformation to better accommodate its future events it’s hard to forget what went on under its roof. From rock concerts to Detroit Pistons basketball Cobo Arena has hosted some high profile gatherings. A particular event that occurred on June 23rd of 1963 may have been one of its most memorable. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed a crowd of over 25,000 people with a speech that would eventually be used in part in Washington, D.C. only a couple of months later.

Dr. King’s use of “I have a Dream” in Detroit would go on to be one of the most remembered parts of his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. I have not been privileged enough to hear King’s speech from Detroit but I think it’s worth noting that the speech was released to the public on vinyl by Berry Gordy on his Gordy label. It is also being broadcast today on WDET 101.9 FM, a perfect time to hear it for the first time.

Here is a clip of that speech made in Detroit with several historic photos from the march:

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Here is a breakdown of the subject content of the speech. The Great March to Freedom can also now be downloaded via Amazon or iTunes as an mp3.


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