When the United State began fighting in World War II, a serious labor shortage occurred because workers who normally filled these jobs either went off to war, or were employed in manufacturing establishments which were primarily producing goods for use in the war effort. As a result, there was a serious shortage of agricultural labor in Connecticut. Virtually all of Connecticut’s farmers, particularly those who grew the labor intensive tobacco crop, established new sources of migrant labor in order to address this extreme labor shortage. Agreements were made with the Jamaican government to import hundreds of Jamaicans as temporary workers. Local families were encouraged to send their children, 14 years and older, to work in the fields, including the tobacco fields, to help with the war effort. Young women from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and other states were brought in to work primarily in the tobacco barns. One sizable group of young women from Florida lived in a dormitory specially built for them in Tariffville. Morehouse College was among the southern black colleges that recruited young African -American men, mostly their own students, to ride the train north to work on tobacco farms in Connecticut in order to earn college tuition money. The colleges usually sent professors with the students, who were paid to supervise the young men.
Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the many students who participated in this Morehouse College program during the war in 1944, when he was 15 and about to enter Morehouse College as a Freshman, and again after the war in 1947, when he was 18 and about to enter his Senior year at Morehouse College.
Morehouse students who worked for Cullman Brothers could live in one of three Cullman Brothers "camps" or dormitories: Morehouse College and Hoskins Station, both north and west of the center of Simsbury, and Indian Head near Bill’s Greenhouse off Route 189 in Granby.
1943 and 1947 were probably two very different sets of experiences for the Morehouse students including Martin Luther King, Jr.. Certain specific facts documented by newspaper accounts, as well as a lack of public evidence about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1947 experience suggest clear differences.
Intriguing Directions for Further Research
• Scholars and friends of Martin Luther King, Jr. generally agree that Martin Luther King, Jr.'s first summer in Simsbury gave him evidence that the strict segregation of the South was not inevitable, and that another, far freer relationship among the races was possible. Did Martin Luther King’s second summer in Simsbury alert him to the urgency of addressing racism before the Southern style of segregation overtook the North?
• In which dormitory did Martin Luther King, Jr. live? Was it the Morehouse College Camp at the corner of Barn Door Hills Road and Firetown Road? Or was it Hoskins Station on Hoskins Road, about .5 miles from Route 10? Circumstantial evidence suggests that he lived at Cullman Brother’s Farm # 2 called Hoskin’s Station, which still stands today.
• Which Simsbury churches did Martin Luther King, Jr. attend? There is evidence that Morehouse College students attended both the First Congregational Church and the United Methodist Church. Did they perform at, or attend, any other Simsbury churches, in Tariffville, for example? Was Martin Luther King, Jr. among them?
• Reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s brief account of his feelings as he rode on the train north of Washington D. C., as he visited Hartford and as he lived in Simsbury, as well as hearing Dr. Picken’s account of his experience as a southern African-American youth traveling, working and finding entertainment in the North, strongly suggest that the discontinuity between their experiences of racism in the North and in the South, were profoundly felt. To what extent did Martin Luther King, Jr.’s summers in Simsbury influence his life’s direction by proving the possibility of a different relationship among the races?
• Martin Luther King, Jr., as the son of a popular preacher in a large city, was economically advantaged and certainly well-respected in southern African American society. Not all participants in the program were from the city, nor were they all as well-off as Martin Luther King, Jr.. In addition, when Martin Luther King, Jr. went to Hartford for Sunday services, he was likely to have been invited into the homes of parishioners for Sunday dinner, as were many other Morehouse students. To what extent was Martin Luther King, Jr. influenced to be more compassionate of African Americans of different economic and cultural backgrounds, by his close association with African-Americans in various working and relaxing circumstances?
• If the Martin Luther King, Jr.’s two summers in Simsbury where as different as they appear to have been, did this apparent deterioration of inter-racial harmony spur him on to realize that action on the issues of race had to be taken sooner rather than later in order to halt a further erosion of rights and respect?
Original Purpose of the Research