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Has Brooklyn Done Enough to Honor Martin Luther King Jr? What's Named after MLK?

Barely a Physical Trace of Dr. King's Name in the County Known as Kings


The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King left a giant footprint in New York City, and in Brooklyn, in terms of social impact. But on the blunt physical level of memory, of places bearing the civil rights leaders' name "Martin Luther King," Brooklyn has precious few: just a playground, and an undistinguished street.

Where is Dr. King in our pantheon of heroes?

This is surprising: there's a bust of President John F. Kennedy in Grand Army Plaza, rededicated in 2010, and a statue of Abe Lincoln deep in Prospect Park that's going to be repositioned for greater visibility. Brooklyn has a huge memorial to fallen WWII soldiers in Downtown Brooklyn, memorials to Brooklyn-born celebs at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden Celebrity Path, and many memorials to those who lost and gave their lives on September 11, 2011.

That said, Brooklyn has several events commemorating Dr. King. They include a popular summer concert series, and a number of special events held by key Brooklyn cultural organizations in January to mark Dr. King's birthday.

Places & Events in Brooklyn Named After Martin Luther King, Jr.

1. Martin Luther King Jr. Playground

The Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a 50-by-100-foot playground built on the site of a former rubble-strewn lot in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. It is on Dumont Avenue
Blake Ave. bet. Bradford St. and Miller Ave.

The Parks Department Historical sign on that site reads,
"Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement who became famous in the 1950s and 1960s for his advocacy of nonviolent resistance in the struggle against racism. Descended from a long line of ministers, King was a child prodigy who entered Morehouse College at 15 and was ordained a minister of the Baptist Church four years later. As pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King earned a reputation as an eloquent and committed opponent of intolerance. He was elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association and led the successful Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 to 1956."

2. Martin Luther King Jr. Place

James Barron of The New York Times in an article about places in New York City named after Dr. King notes that over 600 streets in the US have been named after Dr. King.

There is just one small street in Brooklyn named after Dr. King, near the Marcy Houses projects.

Here's how Barron described Martin Luther King Jr. Place, renamed six years after King's assassination: "It is a little street, only a block long, between two big housing projects in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. It has only a handful of buildings that anybody lives in, a sprawling schoolyard playground and a small city park — all pavement, no grass to speak of." (See Not Much of a Block, But It's Named for a King", New York Times, Jan18, 2009.)

3. Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series (Summer,Outdoors)

The popular outdoor summer concert series called Martin Luther King Concert series was begun by then-New York State Senator Marty Markowitz in 1982. In recent years the concerts have been held on Monday nights at Wingate Field, featuring many gospel, soul, reggae stars, among others.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Events

Every year, Brooklyn acknowledges Martin Luther King Day in a variety of ways. The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, Brooklyn Children's Museum and Brooklyn Academy of Music all have important public events.

In most, but not all years, the NYC Parks Department and Brooklyn Public Library system do as well.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday. Schools are, of course, closed, as are all public offices including post offices.

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