Martin Luther King, Jr. Playground

Martin Luther King Playground

This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968) was a pivotal figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, famous for his fearless advocacy of nonviolent, direct action in the struggle against racism.  King was a child prodigy who entered Morehouse College at age 15 and was ordained a minister of the Baptist Church at 19. As pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King earned a reputation as an eloquent and committed opponent of segregation. He was elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association and was responsible for the successful Montgomery bus boycott of 1955-56.

Rev. King resigned from the Dexter Avenue Church in 1959 in order to found and direct the activities of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, an organization devoted to challenging racist practices with nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1963, he organized the historic March on Washington to support the passage of civil rights legislation.  There he delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. The following year, at age 35, King became the youngest man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. 

Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, but his courage and accomplishments continue to inspire admirers all over the world. He is remembered as one of the greatest American heroes of the 20th century, a man who devoted his life to fostering tolerance and equality on the grounds that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”           

This property was acquired by the City of New York and authorized by the Board of Estimate on June 27, 1946 to be part of the Stephen Foster Houses. The housing project was named for Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1864), the American composer who penned, among other well-known songs, “O Susannah,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” In November 1947 the property was designated as a playground, and five years later it was opened as the Stephen Foster Houses Playground. In May 1968, one month after King’s assassination, the surrounding housing complex was renamed the Martin Luther King, Jr. Towers, and the playground’s name was changed subsequently as well.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Playground features play areas for both toddlers and older children, two full basketball courts, handball courts, adult fitness equipment, a sitting area, and a comfort station. This site was renovated in 2017-18 through the Community Parks Initiative – a multi-faceted program to increase the accessibility and quality of parks throughout the five boroughs in an equitable manner.

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