The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy will be celebrated around the country on January 14, brought his struggle for civil rights to Hartford in 1959. King delivered a speech on “The Future of Integration” on May 7, 1959, at The Bushnell. In addition to his speech there, King spoke at the Thursday interdenominational brown bag lunch at AHCC.
King began his lecture at The Bushnell by noting his fondness for the Hartford area, having worked at a tobacco farm in Simsbury helping to fill jobs left by those who were serving in World War II. “On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see,” he wrote his father in June 1944. “After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to.”
King’s experience in Simsbury would influence his decision to become a minister and heighten his resentment of segregation. After his fellow Morehouse College students at the tobacco farm elected him their religious leader, he decided to become a minister. In his application to Crozer Theological Seminary, King wrote that he made the decision that summer “when I felt an inescapable urge to serve society. In short, I felt a sense of responsibility which I could not escape.”
“After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation,” King wrote in his autobiography. “I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly because the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect.”
On Sunday, January 14, we will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., and commemorate his visit to Hartford and AHCC with a framed photo of him speaking in Drew Hall. We welcome all to join in this joyful celebration.