First Church of Christ in Simsbury, CT
Mentioned in MLK's letters to his parents

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Martin Luther King, Jr. in Simsbury
Brief Orientation to the Collection
Collected by Pam McDonald, Westminster School, Simsbury, CT
In partial fulfillment of her Master of Library Science Degree 
from Syracuse University 
Supervised by Stephen Simon - Simsbury Historical Society

Brief Orientation to Pam McDonald's Collection

CONTENTS: Two notebooks, a 3 inch Binder 1 and a 2 1/2 inch Binder 2, containing notes and photocopied materials. The earliest material is a report by C. S. Johnson sponsored the Urban League from 1921. The most recent materials are interviews recorded (on tape or by hand) in August 2000.

These notebooks are organized primarily according to the type of source and then sub-divided into specific sources, or, rarely, by subject matter. The source of each page is clearly identified on the page. Research notes about searching for a type of source are filed at the beginning of each source type. (For example, efforts to retrieve the Hartford Observer and the Daily Gleaner from the Connecticut State Library were unsuccessful. Notes from that search are included at the beginning of the Periodicals and Scrapbooks section.)

This project was begun with the intention of creating a public marker to be place in Eno Memorial Hall commemorating the 2 summers of Martin Luther King’s residency at age 15 and 18, in Simsbury Connecticut, his attendance at movies in the Hall, and to acknowledge the part that Connecticut’s Inter-Racial Commission and the Simsbury community played in his experience here.

Although much has been documented through interviews and early newspaper clippings about the experience of the Morehouse students during those summers, there is very little material available that is specific to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s personal experience. Further research, particularly among Morehouse graduates in Atlanta, Georgia (e.g. Larry H. Williams) and in Connecticut, is likely to produce valuable data on this topic. However, this data probably resides primarily in the memories and notes of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s fellow students and requires swift action to be preserved. For example, in the raw footage of the interview taped by Connecticut Public Television and noted in this collection, Dr. Pickens, who was a close friend of Martin Luther King, Jr., mentions that he was assembling material in preparation for writing a book about the experiences of the Morehouse College students in Connecticut. Dr. Pickens died in 1999. His son, who appears to live in Newington, may know the whereabouts of this material.

It has been particularly disappointing that a statement, signed by the operator of the Eno Memorial Hall movies in cooperation with the Connecticut Inter-Racial Commission promising not to discriminate against the African-American tobacco workers the year before Martin Luther King, Jr. came to Simsbury, was never found despite extensive searching. Nor has it been conclusively demonstrated that Martin Luther King, Jr. actually attended movies at Eno Memorial Hall in 1944. (He could not have attended in 1947 because the movies were no longer being shown.)

Much of the material in these binders is photocopied for personal research purposes and CANNOT LEGALLY BE REPRODUCED FROM THESE COPIES. However, notes can be taken.

Persons interested in pursuing further research are encouraged to browse the sections on Contacts and Leads. There are a number of potentially fruitful directions for generating useful data. Among them:

• ***** Ask Bernice Martin if she and her son ever found letters from Martin Luther King, Jr. among her husband’s papers.

• ***** Confirm with Dr. Hayes that Dr. Hayes lived in the Morehouse Camp, not Hoskins Station, Farm #2.

• ***** Find and interview fellow students and friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. particularly those who shared his experience in Connecticut.

• ***** Talk with pastors or historians/archivists/elderly parishioners at Hartford churches (Union Baptist, Shiloh Baptist, Mount Olive Baptist (?)) to find out what they know about the Morehouse College students in the 1940’s. Perhaps there are specific memories of Martin Luther King, Jr..

• **** Find and examine the materials that Dr. Pickens was assembling for his book.

• **** Contact Fay Clarke Johnson who wrote Soldiers of the Soil and ask her what she may know of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s experience in Connecticut, or whom she may know who may have personal recollections of him.

• Confirm with Jim Jedrziewski of the Human Rights Commission Archives that he found no evidence of the Eno/Joyce statement.

• Take out ads or have an article published in Hartford papers about this research and ask for those who have information, or who know people who might have information, to contact the researcher.

• Find and browse old Morehouse College newspapers and bulletins, including The Maroon Tiger, for "What I did with my summer" articles or letters to the editor.

• Visit organizations of retired workers (e.g. Hartford’s West Indies Club, North Main Street, Rt. 159) and ask what they know.

• Check NAACP archives for 1944 and 1947 to get more background information from an African American perspective.

• Find papers for Willard B. Green, music teacher at Weaver High School, and James W. Hall, who directed the Hoskins Station Glee Club at different times.

• Find and read Reverdy C. Ransom’s, Connecticut Council of Churches, study of migrant worker’s goals, if it is likely to include interviews with Morehouse College students. (from Soldiers of the Soil. )

• Contact Al Marder of the Amistad Society in New Haven. Prashad says he is a great source for African American History, people and newspapers in Connecticut.

• Contact Mildred Savage in Pawcatuck, CT, perhaps the author of Parrish, the book and the movie, to see if she knows anything.

• More thorough search of periodical articles, Hartford Courant (especially a 1970 article) and Northeast Magazine,The New York Times, The New York Post (particularly 1957 article including "bitter feeling"), Ebony (particularly the 1987 Christine King Ferris article mentioned in the Journal Inquirer article), even the Hartford Times, etc. (See Leads page on Periodical Leads.) It might be helpful to search the annual Martin Luther King Day articles.

• Find Mike Swift, former reporter for the Hartford Courant (1991), the author of a detailed article on Martin Luther King, Jr.’s experience in Connecticut and interviewer of Dr. Pickens, and ask for notes or documentation of interview.

• See if any progress has been made in organizing the Morehouse College records from the 1940’s.

• Check with Philip Stock, architect, whose mother played the piano for the movies at Eno Memorial Hall.

• Revisit the Windsor Historical Society and browse their upstairs records for Cullman Brother’s records, Tobacco Association records documenting Morehouse recruitment of students. (There appears to be nothing in the basement archives.)

• Revisit Windsor’s Tobacco Museum at Northwest Park and check the 1948 Lasbury Scrapbook for articles from 1947 (lots of articles are out of order). Also photocopy p. 31 of an article pasted on page 62 of the 1945 Lasbury Scrapbook and attach it to the appropriate article in this collection. Ask Mr. Dowe if he can help find information on the 1944 Hartford Portico Sing.

• Check with the University of Connecticut History Department to see if anyone in their department is doing research on this topic.

• Check with Andrew Walsh, professor at Trinity College to see if he has information about the Morehouse College program.

• Develop 2-way personal communication with Stanford’s Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Papers Project and find out what leads they may have. (There does not appear to be anything on their site beyond his 5 letters home during his first summer in Connecticut.)

• Find and examine the archives of local African American papers from the 1940’s. Sources may include Schomberg Library (Amsterdam News - feature stories), University of Connecticut Libraries and New York Public Library.

• Ask Peter Willard Nielson, now living in Florida, who attended Simsbury Methodist Church in the 1940’s what he remembers of the Morehouse students.

• Visit the Schomberg Library in Harlem, New York City to find information on Rev. Furman (or Furnan) Fordham who directed the Connecticut Council of Churches recreational glee club program.

• Check New York Times index for Furnan Fordham.

• Ask Dennis Perratti, whose father lives in New Hampshire and was the supervisor for Cullman Brothers at Hoskins Crossing if there is any information he can provide.

• Contact Benjamin Little from Rocky Hill who was from the only resident black family in Simsbury during the 40’s.

• Contact Raymond Joyce, Jr. to see if he has found the Joyce/Eno statement among his father’s papers.

• Read: "A King Raised by Wise Men" and "The Student Days of Martin Luther King, Jr." in Black Collegian Magazine, Black Collegiate Services, Inc. 1997. (from Hesketh)

• Contact Martin Luther King, Jr.’s family and associates to see if he ever shared his Connecticut experiences with them.

• Contact Rev. Paul G. Gillespie, former Hartford pastor, who was supervised by Martin Luther King, Jr. while writing his dissertation to find out if Martin Luther King, Jr. shared his early Connecticut experiences with him. He now lives in Baltimore, MD

• Browse further in Bishop Gray’s Inter-Racial Commission file in the Episcopal Church Archives in Hartford. (The first 8th of the collection has been very carefully examined and these archives do not appear to hold data on specific incidents addressed by the commission, but of course, there is a chance that the statement signed by Raymond Joyce, may be there.)

• Browse the materials of the Connecticut Research Station for records of the Morehouse College program/Cullman Brothers for 1944 and 1947.

Copyright Pam McDonald, 2007