1957: Marathon in Manhatten

57 318 On July 10. 1957 a lunch hour meeting occured amid the concrete canyons of lower Manhatten. The team had learned in London to take the crusade to the people.

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“No other city in America—perhaps in the world—presented as great a challenge to evangelism,” recalled Billy Graham in his autobiography, “Just As I Am.” “In a message to our supporters, I acknowledged that ‘humanly speaking, New York is the most unlikely city in the western hemisphere for successful evangelism.’”

But Mr. Graham had prayerfully considered the invitation he’d received from the Protestant Council of New York, and he went to Manhattan believing that God was leading. “I have prayed more over this assignment and wept more over the city of New York than any other city we have ever been to,” he wrote in his diary. “Now it is in God’s hands.”

The team booked Madison Square Garden for six weeks, from May 15 through June 30. But they saw a hunger for the Gospel that they hadn’t expected. The crowds came—and kept coming. The Crusade was extended twice, eventually lasting 16 weeks.

As overflow crowds often stood outside Madison Square Garden, Mr. Graham began to preach to the crowds outside on 49th Street and Eighth Avenue. And the Garden was just the beginning. In addition to the meetings there, Mr. Graham preached at Forest Hills Tennis Stadium, Leif Eriksen Square in Brooklyn, several open-air services in Harlem, a noontime meeting on Wall Street and a July 20 meeting at Yankee Stadium that drew a record crowd; tens of thousands were left outside after the stadium filled. Several Saturday night services were broadcast on national television.

The final meeting on Sept. 1 was a massive rally in Times Square. Total attendance over the 16 weeks was more than 2 million, with tens of thousands indicating decisions for Jesus Christ.


Above: People eager to hear the Good News clogged the streets during a lunchtime meeting amid the “concrete canyons” of lower Manhattan.

Photo: BGEA Archives