The sad story of Martin Luther King’s bust in Debrecen, Hungary

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a US federal holiday marking the birthday of MLK. It is observed on the third Monday of January each year, this year on January 20th.  King’s actual birthday is January 15th.

In order to understand Hungary’s deep-rooted and institutionalized racism here is the story of MLK’s bust in my birth-town Debrecen.

Martin Luther King Jr. bust in 1978 next to the Church.

The American civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.    Ten years later on June 16, 1978 Hungary’s Communist regime invited his father Martin Luther King Sr., to visit Debrecen, Hungary.  A modern Calvinist Church was inaugurated and planned to be named after his son.  Next to the Church a bust of Martin Luther King Jr. was installed.

New Calvinist Church, Debrecen 1978 – Supposed to be named after Martin Luther King Jr.

In the following years things changed in Debrecen.  Hungary’s and the city’s political mood turned right-wing and MLK was no longer popular.  The Church decided not to take his name, the bust was damaged, white paint poured over it and a swastika painted at the bottom of the column.

The Hungarian Reformed (Calvinist) Church decided to remove the bust and many thought that it will be melted down.   Almost three decades later (!) the bust was discovered in one of the Church’s storage rooms.  The good Calvinists did not know what to do with it.

Later they had an idea.  MLK was a Baptist preacher so the Calvinists decided to give it to the local Baptist community.  The Baptist Congregation cleaned and restored it and now it is sitting in their Community Hall on Szappanos Street.

Martin Luther King Jr. bust today at the Baptist Community Hall in Debrecen.

A couple of years ago on a visit to the city, Baptist Pastor Albert Pető told me that he would open the room for me if I wanted to see MLK’s bust.

It is sad that Debrecen is still not ready to place the great Martin Luther King’s bust in a public square.  It is safer to keep it behind closed doors.

György Lázár


  1. What has he done for Hungary, Europe or the European people?

  2. Thank you for the story, Mr. Lázár. May I ask where the church on the picture is supposed to have been standing in 1978? I visit Debrecen quite often and not only have I never seen this beautiful building, I could not find any references to it anywhere on-line. Thank you.

  3. The primitive behavior of some Hungarians towards that statue is truly terrible. Not a reflection of overall society however.

    As far as the displaying of the statue itself, I fail to see the relevance to Hungarian society. MLK belongs to a specific culture with its own specific history. It starts with the black slave trade. But what is that to Hungarians? Hungary and Hungarians mostly had nothing to do with any of it.

    While American history books are full of the black slavery subject, not a single word about the enslavement of countless people in East-Central Europe hundreds of years ago. Not long before the black slave trade began, countless Hungarians, Romanians, Serbs and others were dragged away in chains and sold throughout the ME and North-Africa. But I guess it means nothing to Americans, so not a single mention of it in most history books, or anywhere else. Same as MLK means very little in Central-Eastern Europe. Author for sure thinks that it should mean something, but I am sure that in turn he has never done anything to bring the topic of white slavery to the forefront of discussions in America. But of course, when the face of the slave is white, and the face of the slaver is brown, it just doesn’t fit into the Progressive-globalist world-view, and ideological narratives, dominated by white self-loathing. He is just looking to export white self-loathing to a place where it really does not belong.

  4. Avatar Szigeti Máté says:

    White guilt alert. Regardless of who is the bust/statue etc depicting it will always be damaged or drawn on, stop with the “muh institutionalized racism” crap.

  5. Every nation has been injured by those who can and every nation has done the same to others, always remembering the insults to themselves and forgetting the insults they have perpetrated.

    Progress must start at home, and no, I MEAN NO nation is as guilty as AMERIKA!

    lee and lone coleman
    Berkeley, Ca, USA

  6. Avatar György Lázár says:

    Dear Jiří,

    MLK’s statue was installed on Bolyai Street, Debrecen at the Nagyerdei Reformed Church… The Church refused to take MLK’s name.

    More about the bust in Hungarian..

  7. Avatar Maria E.Eliason says:

    Sadly, Hungary became a backword, racist neo feudalistic country. Cheap Jingoism took over instead of building democratic institutions, where tolerance and responsibility would rule. General ignorance (the mother of all evil) is blooming. The general population is poorly informed, therefore easily mislead. The country took an enormous step back, it resembles the 1920-s.
    It is painful to watch.

    • You mean just because Hungarians are not willing to commit ethno-cultural suicide like their West European peers? This brings them in line with most of Hungary’s regional peers, because the Slovaks, Czechs, Poles and others around do not want to have their distinct cultures replaced with a multikulti stew either. A multikulti stew where the native ingredient becomes more and more diluted as time passes to the point where the native ingredient eventually disappears altogether as an identifiable ingredient.

      This also brings Hungary into line with most other nations based on a distinct ethno-cultural identity like the Japanese, Koreans, Chinese. Even the Dalai Lama said that Europeans must remain Europeans. Is he a “racist”?

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