Maple Shade site where MLK was once denied service may become memorial park

 According to civil rights activist Patrick Duff, this plot of land in Maple Shade, N.J., is the former site of Mary's Place, a bar where Martin Luther King Jr. and friends were refused service. Duff wants to make the plot a small park featuring a plaque and a statue of King. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Duff)

According to civil rights activist Patrick Duff, this plot of land in Maple Shade, N.J., is the former site of Mary's Place, a bar where Martin Luther King Jr. and friends were refused service. Duff wants to make the plot a small park featuring a plaque and a statue of King. (Photo courtesy of Patrick Duff)

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.

Or repeated.

Duff’s dream is to see a small park featuring a statue of King and a plaque relaying what happened that fateful day.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.