What is: Tobacco Farm Barns near Simsbury, CT
What was: In June 1944, trains carrying 185 students from Morehouse College in Atlanta arrived in a northern Connecticut town of Simsbury. The students had arrived to work in the tobacco fields and harvest shade tobacco, then one of Connecticut’s biggest cash crops. These fields and barns are where Martin Luther King spent time working as a 15-year-old. He would spend 2 summers working in the fields around Simsbury.
More than just a job, this was his first exposure to the Northeast and to a society that was not formally segregated. He attended Simsbury churches, sang with the choir, enjoyed drugstore milkshakes and attended movies at Eno Hall. He made weekend visits to the “big city” of Hartford. In a letter to his mother in June 1944 he remarked that he had eaten in “one of the finest restaurants in Hartford” and that he had “never thought” that people of different races “could eat anywhere” together.
He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too. “I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote. MLK later credited that time with helping him decide to enter the clergy, which, in turn, led him to join the civil rights movement. Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/martin-luther-king-in-connecticut-closer-to-a-promised-land.html