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Remembering Martin Luther King Jr.'s Days In Connecticut On The Holiday

As an adult, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the time he spent working in Connecticut as a teen and how he encountered less segregation in the North.
As an adult, Martin Luther King Jr. wrote about the time he spent working in Connecticut as a teen and how he encountered less segregation in the North. Photo Credit: File

FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. – As Connecticut and the nation marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday, Jan. 17, ConnecticutHistory.org is highlighting his civil rights leader's experiences in the Nutmeg State.

ConnecticutHistory.org reminds Connecticut residents that King's dream had its roots partially in Connecticut, where he worked as a 15-year-old to earn money for school and his family.

"In the summer of 1944, a young Martin Luther King Jr. worked at the Simsbury tobacco farm of Cullman Brothers Inc.," ConnecticutHistory.org posted on its website. "King’s letters home to his mother and father reveal a 15-year-old’s astonishment at the prospects open to African Americans in the comparatively less restrictive North."

He wrote about worshipping with white people in a Simsbury church and dining at a fine restaurant in Hartford, according to ConnecticutHistory.org.

In his autobiography, King wrote that his experiences in Connecticut and during the train ride home to Atlanta heightened his awareness of the injustices of segregation in the U.S. From New York to Washington, King could sit where he pleased on the train. But from D.C. to Atlanta, he had to ride in the separate Jim Crow car.

Monday, Jan. 17, is a federal, state and local holiday. Many schools and offices will be closed.

A number of local events are scheduled to commemorate the work of King, a champion of human rights, justice and equality who would have turned 88 this year.

In Stamford, residents will gather at 10 a.m. for a rally at the Bethel AME Church on Fairfield Avenue. A march, beginning at the church, will follow at 11 a.m. and a lunch program will be held at the nearby Yerwood Center at 12:30 p.m. The march will be led by grand marshals Guy Fortt, Tabitha Fortt and Al Thomas. The keynote speaker at the Yerwood Center will be Edward Joyner.

In Westport, the Westport Historical Society will host children, ages 6 to 11, for a fun day of activities from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Nicole Carpenter, WHS Education Director, will facilitate activities that celebrate the legacy of Dr. King. Call 203-222-1424 to register

In Ridgefield, the town at 3 p.m. will present the 21st Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration in a free event at the Ridgefield Playhouse. The event will honor Daniela Sikora, head of The Ridgefield Chorale who started the Being Human Being Kind campaign to end bullying. A posthumous award will be presented to the family of Tom Belote, in recognition of his tireless advocacy and activism on behalf of immigrants to America and to our community. The afternoon will feature special performances by Broadway’s Daniel Levine and Bryan Perri as well as The Ridgefield Chorale, The Serendipity Chorale, Kimberly Wilson, Ridgefield A Better Chance and students from Keys, a nonprofit organization that brings music education to underserved inner-city children.

Connecticut was one of the first states to enact an official statewide observance of Dr. Martin Luther King’s birthday – 12 years before the date was recognized as a national holiday. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983, and it was first observed three years later. It was officially observed under the MLK name in all 50 states for the first time in 2000.

To read the full post about King's time in Connecticut and for more links on the topic, click here for ConnecticutHistory.org. Click here for further information from the Simsbury Historical Society on King's time working in Connecticut as a teenager.

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