For the past three years, Camden City, New Jersey has been on the map for a historic discovery of an early residence of Martin Luther King Jr. during his days at Crozer College in Pennsylvania.
Discovered by an amateur historian and used car salesman, Patrick Duff, the historical home located at 753 Walnut Street was earmarked for a $229,000 community grant that was later diverted to the Camden Fire Department with no warning.
During his time at Seminary School, Dr. King and friends were renting a room at the Walnut St. house and allegedly stayed there on the weekends from the years 1949 to 1951, though there are some disputes that Dr. King was there as frequently as it is claimed.
The home is currently owned by Jeanette Lilly Hunt, now in her 80’s, whose father-in-law rented the room to Dr. King.
What makes the home so remarkable is that it was the residence Dr. King reported in a police complaint against a white tavern owner in Maple Shade, NJ in 1950 who denied Dr. King and his friends service because they were black. To intimidate Dr. King and his friends, the bartender shot off a gun.
According to Duff and the city of Maple Shade, this incident was a pivotal point in Dr. King’s life that ultimately led him to his position in the civil rights movement.
With millions at stake for revitalizing the block in Camden City, an agreement between Copper Ferry Partnership, a non-profit aimed at developing and restoring properties in Camden leveraged the house. For the price of one dollar and the promise to free up funds to save the house quickly, Hunt agreed to sell the home.
On the day of the closing however, no one showed up, leaving Hunt in possession of the dilapidated residence.
Infuriated, Duff investigated the matter and discovered that the Federal Grant money that had been approved and earmarked for the project had instead been rerouted to the local fire department.
In response to Duff’s fragmented investigations, officials in New Jersey have begun pointing the finger. Doubt has been cast on Duff’s story of Dr. King’s experience in Maple Shade, with speculation rising that the Camden house needed that extra push for historical value.
Critics are arguing that the residence itself is problematic, with confusion regarding who held the title of the residence when the federal grant was written, approved and granted. There also disputes over the timing of Camden city and Democratic politicians getting involved . Dr. King spent time in Camden , but the Maple Shade story has been uncovered . King at age 17, wrote to the Atlanta Constitution newspaper back in 1946 . Upset about blacks being murdered by whites.
King talks about civil rights , and his dreams of all men being created equal to prosper . Years later his father and mother would reflect on that letter as the turning point for king.
The Maple Shade 1950 altercation was not the pivotal moment in Dr. King’s awakening into civil rights . When money and power are the advancement , you will alway’s find opportunists to capitalized on history.
Dr. Martin Luther King , Your Historical History Has Been Restored.
Emmy Skylar started working for Debate Report in 2017. Emmy grew up in a small town in northern Manitoba. But moved to Ontario for university. Before joining Debate Report, Emmy briefly worked as a freelance journalist for CBC News. She covers politics and the economy.