Black History Month Classics:
Suzanne Muldowney Joins the 2003 Martin Luther King Day, Jr. Parade
“When the Negro was completely an Underdog, he needed white spokesmen. Liberals played their parts in this period exceedingly well…. But now that the Negro has rejected his role as an Underdog, he has become more assertive in his search for identity and group solidarity; he wants to speak for himself.”
— Martin Luther King, Jr., “Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?,” 1967
This historic event in Baltimore yore took place eight years ago. On January 20, 2003, more than six weeks after she appeared in the Mayor’s Annual Christmas Parade as 1960s cartoon superhero “Underdog” — Suzanne Muldowney returned to Baltimore to partake in her first and only Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Parade. There she was greeted by Atomic TV‘s Tom Warner and Scott Huffines, who recorded her historic appearance for posterity.
Muldowney had petitioned the organizers to let her march in the parade because she believes that Underdog has a strong connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., with both folk heroes coming to national prominance in 1964. Not only was 1964 the year Underdog debuted on Saturday morning television, it also marked the historic passage of the Civil Rights Voting Act, and was the year that Dr. King marched from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, and received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Though there were no characters of color on the ’60s TV cartoon show, when it came to thwarting injustice, Underdog was a colorblind canine superhero; he aided anyone in need – regardless of race, color, or creed.
It was a bitterly cold and windy day for a parade, with sub-freezing temperatures in the teens, but if Dr. King could make the long march from Selma to Montgomery, surely Muldowney’s iconic canine superhero could brave a few hours of a Charm City cold snap to march down Martin Luther King. Jr. Boulevard from Eutaw to Baltimore Street.