At 753 Walnut St. in Camden, there’s a house bordered by a weed-choked vacant lot. Its windows and door are boarded up; the only way in is to stand on a plastic milk crate and hoist your way in through a first-floor opening, maybe risking splinters. There are more boarded up houses than anybody in Camden is comfortable with, but this one is different, and it got a lot of attention this week. It seems Martin Luther King, Jr. slept there – lived there – in the late 1940s and early 1950s while he was a seminary student, and becoming the man he was to be.
Patrick Duff of Moorestown, N.J. wants to see this house become a headquarters for civil rights information and activism. I love the idea of this; Camden deserves a place like that, a place of community discussion, organizing and planning, a place connected to history by learning, by Dr. King’s education.
The house is also connected to a 1950 incident in a nearby Maple Shade bar that may have focused King’s life. King stopped in with three friends for a drink, to be turned away and threatened with a gun fired at the ceiling. And it’s how Duff found the house; the address was listed in a criminal complaint King fired against the bartender.
This effort seems like it’s in the earliest stages, but Duff already has an architectural firm involved and the NJ Historical Society has been to the house. I wish them all luck; this is great research on Duff’s part and has all the potential to be a great project.
Newsworks has more, including a slideshow of the place, in need of major overhaul, inside and out.