Martin Luther King Jr. Park
Martin Luther King Playground
This text is part of Parks’ Historical Signs Project and can be found posted within the park.
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, direct action in the struggle against racism. King was a child prodigy who entered Morehouse college at 15 and was ordained a minister of the Baptist Church at 19. As pastor of the Dexter Avenue Church in Montgomery, Alabama, King secured a reputation as an eloquent and committed opponent of intolerance. He was elected President of the Montgomery Improvement Association and was responsible for the successful Montgomery bus boycott of 1955 to 1956. 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 racism with nonviolent civil disobedience. In 1963, he organized a march on Washington to support proposed civil rights legislation. There he delivered his famous “I Had a Dream” speech. The following year King, at age 35, became the youngest man, second American, and third black man to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in 1968, but his courage continues to inspire admirers all over the world. He is remembered as one of the great American heroes of twentieth century, a man who devoted his life to fostering tolerance and equity on the grounds that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” This property was acquired by the City of New York and authorized for use by the Board of Estimate on June 27, 1946 as part of the Stephen Foster Houses. The housing project was named for Stephen Collins Foster (1826-1824), the American composer who penned, among other well-known songs, “O Susannah,” “Camptown Races,” and “Beautiful Dreamer.” In November 1947 the city plan was officially changed and the property was designated a playground area. Five years later it was opened as the Stephen Foster Houses Playground, reflecting the name of the nearby housing complex. When the project that surrounds it was renamed the Martin Luther King Houses, the playground’s name was changed as well. The Martin Luther King Playground’s most popular feature among neighborhood youth is its two full-courts for basketball. Other attractions include handball facilities, and both toddler and child play areas. There are also several swing sets, a comfort station, and a sprinkler for summer use. The playground has been a participating site in the City Parks Foundation’s Summer Fun in the Parks program. Summer Fun provides free day camp activities for children aged 6 to 14 and helps working parents to offer their children safe, outdoor diversions during the summer months. Parks recreation specialists supervise field trips, parties, basketball games, art projects and myriad other activities that make the Martin Luther King Playground a special place for neighborhood families.