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


My good friend Jane, who lives in Hawaii, forwarded this to me. I always noticed the leis when I saw documentaries about Selma, but never thought to find out where they came from. As Native Hawaiians were pro-Union during the Civil War, for the most part, of course they would be sympathetic to the civil rights cause. What a beautiful gesture bringing the leis was, and that they came all the way from Hawaii to March1

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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