On May 22, 1964 Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. visited Westport for Shabbat to celebrate the fifth anniversary of Temple Israel. Members of the community as well as the congregation turned out in large numbers to hear him speak. This was after President Kennedy’s assassination and civil unrest was sweeping the country.
Martin Luther King had been to Connecticut before in the summer of 1946 when he was a sophomore in college. He was part of a student group who came north to work the tobacco fields of the Connecticut valley. The pay was better than the South and young King wanted to see what the northern states were all about. He had read that there were no segregated facilities as there were in the south, and that blacks could share the same washrooms and drink from the same water fountains. That summer for the first time he was able to enter a restaurant and sit and eat where ever he wanted.