We had never heard the story, but Daniel Nester wrote a piece for n+1 Magazine about a certain fateful night in Maple Shade, NJ, “when two 20-year-old classmates from Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, PA, go out for a ride in the country with their dates.” One of those 20-year-old men was Martin Luther King, Jr., and after asking for a beer at Mary’s Café, he and his companions were told, “the ‘best thing’ would be for them to leave.” When they refused, the bar’s owner pulled out a gun and, “[chased] them out to the parking lot. He [fired] into the roof; other accounts have him shooting into the South Jersey sky.”
The man was arrested, but the charges were dropped a few months later when three Penn students who witnessed it refused to testify. According to Nester, “Most King biographers categorize the incident in Maple Shade as a formative epiphany. Some people even describe Mary’s Café as the birthplace of the modern civil rights movement in America.” So … thanks Maple Shade? With this single, awful, and historically embarrassing event, you possibly kick-started the most important social movement in American history.
To read more of the story and about the author’s history in and views of Maple Shade, NJ, head over here.
[Image via NobelPrize.org]