Summer in Connecticut

As a college student back in 1944, Martin Luther King Jr. spent a summer picking tobacco in Simsbury, a small suburb of Hartford. Apparently, what he saw and what he was allowed to do had a profound effect on him. All the pickers lived in a dorm at the edge of the fields and his fellow Morehouse College bunkmates elected him their religious leader…setting him on the path to becoming a minister.

In Simsbury, he got to go to the same church as white people. He played baseball with whites. On the weekends, he went to Hartford and ate in the same restaurants and saw the same shows as whites.

“After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation. 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.” –Martin Luther King Jr.

While all this may be mildly interesting to you, it’s hugely interesting to me. Simsbury is my hometown, and I know those tobacco fields well. I never picked leaves in the 100+ degrees under the netting, but friends and I would sometimes lie on top of the nets on a weekend night pondering the universe. This is the first I’ve ever heard of MLK in Simsbury. Civic pride.

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