Along an unremarkable stretch of Route 73 in Maple Shade, New Jersey, sits a grassy bump of land rooted to Martin Luther King’s legacy as a civil rights leader.
In 1950, while King was a seminary student, the site was home to Mary’s Place.
On one July night, he and three friends stopped in for a drink, but were refused service and effectively threatened.
“The bartender said to [King] ‘it’s best you leave’ basically, and when they refused to leave, he pulled out a gun and told him he’s ‘killed for less’ and proceeded to fire the gun in the air,” said Camden resident Patrick Duff, who reviewed the police report King filed afterward.
Tonight, Duff will retell this story to Maple Shade’s town council when he asks the body to consider memorializing the spot where Mary’s once stood.
Duff said that until the confrontation there, King hadn’t realized how broken the entire country was when it came to civil rights and that the experience thrust him into the movement.
“It’s about not letting history be erased,” said Duff.
Duff’s dream is to see a small park featuring a statue of King and a plaque relaying what happened that fateful day.