TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Nilsa Cruz-Perez and Senator Jim Beach urging the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and the Historic Preservation Office to place the former Martin Luther King Jr. house in Camden on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places received final legislative approval in the Assembly today.
“Camden is filled with a rich history that stretches back to the founding of our nation, and this home is yet another example of the pivotal moments our city has given witness to,” said Senator Cruz Perez (D-Camden/Gloucester). “It is fitting that we work with the DEP to honor Dr. Martin Luther King’s connection to the city through the preservation of this home and the narrative it has to offer. We have the opportunity to bring history to life for a new generation by letting them walk through the same halls that such a central figure walked, seeing the city and its promise through his eyes.”
“Dr. Martin Luther King’s time in Camden happened at such an interesting point in his life, when he was still growing into the great leader he was to become,” said Senator Beach (D-Burlington/Camden). “It is vital that we safeguard places of such historical significance, especially when they can give us new insight and new perspective into a past that is still so relevant today. This is an exciting opportunity for the city and the region to be able to tell the story of his early life in the same rooms he occupied as a student.”
This historic home is located on 753 Walnut Street in Camden. Reports show that Dr. King lived here in the 1950’s while he was attending Crozer Theological Seminary for his degree. It was around this time, when he and his friends went to a bar called “Mary’s Café” and was denied service and threatened. Dr. King would later cite this incident as the beginning of his involvement in the fight to end racial segregation.
The City of Camden has also expressed interest in seeing the home preserved, they offered to donate the vacant lot next door, and Rutgers University-Camden Law School has offered to set up a nonprofit for the property’s management for free.
SCR126 cleared the Assembly 70-0 and cleared the full Senate 36-0 last week.
Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Commissioner of Environmental Protection and the Historic Preservation Office in the Department of Environmental Protection.