Author presents critical Chester time in Martin Luther King’s life at Delaware County Historical Society exhibit kickoff

Author Patrick Parr speaks at the opening event for the Delaware County Historical Society's “A Glimpse of Black History 1800s — 2019” exhibit.

Delaware County Historical Society welcomed author Patrick Parr for a free event that highlighted the time the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spent in Chester studying at Crozer Theological Seminary.

Parr spent five years writing “The Seminarian,” which focuses on King’s time as a seminary student in Delaware County, and the DCHS invited Parr to speak as a kickoff to “A Glimpse of Black History 1800s — 2019” exhibit on display now.

In introducing Parr, DCHS Executive Director Laurie J. Grant explained that Parr’s book focuses on a period that “is a fairly undocumented segment in King’s life yet was incredibly significant to who he became as an orator and as a civil rights activist.”

She also asked the community to contribute items for DCHS’ black history collection as they’d like to expand it.

“We can only offer to the public what we collect,” Grant said, “so we hope that you will all think of us.”

Parr began his discussion by explaining that he began the process of researching and writing “The Seminarian” in December 2012 after he learned that this period of King’s life hadn’t been documented significantly.

“No one had even gone into the Crozer experience,” he said. “This is the most important figure of the 20th century, and … we are not giving him any nuance. We are simply giving him landmarks. We are putting his name on a lot of stuff, but we’re not giving him depth of character.”

So Parr decided to delve into this period in King’s life, including his relationship with Betty Moitz, the mentors and professors that helped shape him, his friendships and his trials along the way.

He even recounted two times when King faced danger with guns.

One, Parr said, was while King was living in Camden, N.J., in 1950, and he and a friend and their dates went to a café in Maple Shade. Parr said a person threatened them with a gun because he wanted them to leave.

Another occurred in King’s dormitory, Room 52 of Old Main at Crozer seminary.

Parr explained the students would play pranks on each other, and one was moving the entire contents of a room out onto the dormitory’s front lawn.

One day, a student named Lucius Hall had his room’s furniture placed in such a manner.

“He grabbed his pistol … and he aimed it at King in Room 52, and he said, ‘You went too far; you went too far,’” Parr said, adding that King’s friend, Marcus Wood. intervened and was able to de-escalate the situation.

“These stories, they have never been told about King,” Parr said. “That drove me through this book.”

The Parr event was a launch for Delaware County Historical Society’s newest exhibit, “A Glimpse of Black History 1800s — 2019,” which is on display at DCHS’s home, located at 408 Avenue of the States in Chester. It is open to the public Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday from 1 to 6:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot.

For more information or for ways to get involved, call 610-359-0832.

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