NBC Connecticut/ Associated Press January 22, 2013 John Christoffersen and Bob Connors
Simsbury leaders are held a program to honor the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday.
The event at the First Church of Simsbury, included a presentation on a proposed memorial to the late civil rights leader.
A group of Simsbury High School students created a documentary about King's visits to Simsbury and have been pushing for the memorial ever since.
As a teenager, King spent two summers, in 1944 and 1947, working on a tobacco farm in Simsbury and some believe it was during those summers that he began his path to becoming a minister. He arrived with a group of students working for money to help pay for college.
"He saw a world not of segregation, but integration," said Maggie Willerup, who worked on the documentary. "It really was a land of promise for him."
The visits to Simsbury also opened the young King's eyes to a world to which he was not accustomed.
"On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see," he wrote his father in June of 1944. "After we passed Washington there was no discrimination at all. The white people here are very nice. We go to any place we want to and sit any where we want to."
He also wrote to his mother that same year.
"I never thought that a person of my race could eat anywhere but we ate in one of the finest restaurants in Hartford," King wrote. "And we went to the largest shows there."
King's friends teased him that the hot sun in the tobacco fields caused him to preach, his sister, Christine King Farris, told The AP.
In her book, "Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith," Farris wrote that her brother underwent a "metamorphosis" as a result of his time in Connecticut.
"That was quite an experience," Farris said.
King's widow, Coretta Scott King, wrote in her memoir, "My Life With Martin Luther King Jr." that her husband talked of the exhilarating sense of freedom he felt in Connecticut that summer.
Dr. King also wrote of how his first visit to Simsbury changed him.
"After that summer in Connecticut, it was a bitter feeling going back to segregation," King wrote in his autobiography. "I could never adjust to the separate waiting rooms, separate eating places, separate rest rooms, partly becuase the separate was always unequal, and partly because the very idea of separation did something to my sense of dignity and self-respect."
Organizers hope a permanent memorial to Dr. King on Main Street could be completed within a year.