If you live or drove through Simsbury, Conn., you may have passed the 288-acre former tobacco farm known to locals as “Meadowood.” That sprawling area will now be preserved for future generations because it’s where civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. toiled the fields as a college student.
The nonprofit Trust for Public Land and the town of Simsbury announced a plan to make the area a historical site in a statement on Friday. With the state’s protection, Meadowood will now be a part of the Connecticut Freedom Trail which is a series of African American heritage sites.
According to ABC News, King reportedly wrote about his summer experiences on the tobacco farms in the letters he sent back home.
Historians believe King’s experiences in Connecticut influenced his decision to become a minister and civil rights leader. He was among a group of students from Atlanta’s Morehouse College students who were recruited by tobacco growers in Connecticut to work in the fields so they could earn money for tuition.
“On our way here we saw some things I had never anticipated to see,” King wrote his father in June 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 anywhere we want to.”
The trust and city officials said that along with the State Historic Preservation Office, partners, and community members, they plan to restore some of the historic tobacco sheds. The Hill reports that back in May, Simsbury voters came together to authorize $2.5 million to buy the property in a referendum that was sparked by a petition. The purchase was announced on Friday.
Government agencies such as Connecticut’s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, Department of Agriculture and State Historic Preservation Office, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with other organizations contributed millions of dollars for preservation costs.
Trust for Public Land and Simsbury plan to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Oct. 16 for the Meadowood site.
“We are pleased to have worked with the Town of Simsbury and many partners to preserve the Meadowood property for generations to enjoy the beauty of this place and learn from the special and often overlooked history of this land,” said Walker Holmes, Connecticut state director for The Trust for Public Land, according to the Hill.