Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Simsbury
His time in Simsbury was significant as it was his first experience outside the racially segregated South and it seemed to have a profound effect on his outlook. Also, it was here in Simsbury that he decided to enter the ministry.
He attended Simsbury churches, sang with the choir, enjoyed drugstore milkshakes and attended movies at Eno Hall. He made weekend visits to the “big city” of Hartford. In a letter to his mother in June 1944 he remarked that he had eaten in “one of the finest restaurants in Hartford” and that he had “never thought” that people of different races “could eat anywhere” together.
Of course, Dr. King went on to become an iconic figure of the twentieth century. He was a leader of the civil rights movement in the U.S. that led to fundamental and far reaching legal and societal changes. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
In the summer of 2010 the Simsbury Free Library (SFL) sponsored a talented team of students from Simsbury High School in an in depth research project concerning the history of the young Martin Luther King and the Morehouse students here in Simsbury. Their efforts included hundreds of hours of taped interviews with people who lived in Simsbury at that time or who otherwise had first hand knowledge of the Morehouse College student’s visits. The team looked at correspondence and other contemporaneous documentation.
They even came across a “long lost” audiotape of a 1959 address by Dr. King at the University of Hartford in which he fondly recalled his days in Simsbury.
The end result of this SFL sponsored project was a remarkable 18 minute documentary film entitled “Martin Luther King, Jr. in Connecticut.”
The documentary has been an outstanding success. It had its premier on Jan. 15, 2011 at the State of Connecticut Martin Luther King Holiday Commission’s Black Tie Gala in Hartford. It was enthusiastically received by the audience of 400 and praised by Governor Malloy, Senator Blumenthal and other dignitaries.
It was then featured at the official Martin Luther King Day celebration at the State Capital on Jan.17, 2011 and shown to capacity crowds at Eno Hall later that day.
Fittingly, the student’s achievement was the subject of a 5 minute feature seen coast to coast on the CBS Evening News. The segment ended with the observation that “who knows, perhaps the view from the mountain began in a Valley” i.e., Simsbury – and the Farmington Valley of the mid- 1940’s to emphasize the impact of his Connecticut experience.
To memorialize this important and exciting story, the students are currently engaged in a project to build a memorial to Martin Luther King. It will be a permanent feature on the lawn of the Simsbury Free Library, erected to educate, celebrate and recognize the small role that Simsbury played in the life of this great man. We would welcome your interest and support.
This is the students’ 14 minute award winning documentary film
Click below to see the CBS news story that appeared on the Katie Couric show on Martin Luther King Day 2011.
CBS News MLKJr in Simsbury