Young King inspired by time in Conn., work on farm

By John Christoffersen

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Jan. 17 2011 4:35 a.m. MST

Byer says King and other students often worked in temperatures that reached 100 degrees or higher. The students, who were earning money to pay for college, made about $4 per day, Byer said. They lived in a dormitory built at the edge of the tobacco field.

King was nicknamed "Tweed" by his friends because he often wore a tweed suit to church, said Alexis Kellam, whose late father, Ennis Proctor, worked with King that summer in Connecticut.

King's friends teased him that the hot sun in the tobacco fields caused him to preach, his sister, Christine Farris, told The AP.

In her book "Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith," Ferris wrote that her brother underwent a "metamorphosis" as a result of his time in Connecticut.

"That was quite an experience," Farris said.

King's widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote in her memoir, "My Life With Martin Luther King Jr." that her husband talked of the exhilarating sense of freedom he felt in Connecticut that summer.

That taste of freedom ended as King returned home. When he got to Washington, he had to ride the rest of the way to Atlanta in a segregated train.

"After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation," King wrote in his autobiography. "I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly because the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect."

Clayborne Carson, a history professor and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, said King's time in Connecticut played a role in his decision to become a minister and in influencing his views about segregation. He said shortly before King came to Connecticut that summer, a bus driver ordered him to give up his seat for a white passenger on the way to Atlanta.

"These experiences came fairly close to each other," Carson said. "I think the two things together sharpened his sense of resentment about segregation in the South."

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