Penn Center houses MLK, Civil Rights Movement history - - The News for South Mississippi

Penn Center holds pieces of Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy

Penn Center's History and Culture Director Victoria Smalls Penn Center's History and Culture Director Victoria Smalls

Millions are marking the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s march on Washington D.C.

There's a special historic connection right here in the Lowcountry. It's a place that nurtured much of the Civil Rights Movement.

King made several visits to the historic Penn Center during the 1960s. He even penned the early words to his famous "I Have A Dream" speech there.

His words live on to this day.

King changed America's history through his powerful message of non-violence, justice and equality.

During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, King spent time at Penn Center.

"What you see here is a photograph of Dr. Martin Luther King pictured with Courtney Siceloff, the executive director of the Penn Center, his wife Elizabeth and son John," said the Penn Center's History and Culture Director Victoria Smalls.

Back in the 1960s, the Penn Center provided community services. The location made it one of only two places where multiracial groups could meet safely.

"You didn't have a lot of traffic. We were isolated as a barrier island, also we were respected as an educational site and because of our isolation. It was a safehaven," Smalls said.

Between 1963 to 1967, King made frequent trips to the Penn Center, holding meetings late into the night, preparing for public demonstrations and even running up and down the steps of a cottage on the property. 

"This is the Gantt Cottage here at Penn Center. This is where Dr. King stayed. He stayed here to work; to escape the demands of his work and to rest."

The center still houses several momentos and items of King's, including his official obituary.

"Our director at that time penned a letter in response to his passing, it was penned on April 5, 1968," said Smalls, who attended the MLK 25thanniversary march as a young teenager.

Nearly 50 years after King delivered his powerful "I Have A Dream" speech, her only regret is that she won't be able to make it to this one.

The Penn Center is continuing it's 150thanniversary celebration to include the Civil Rights Movement and Dr. King's work."

A Penn Center employee discovered the handwritten notes of King's "I Have A Dream" speech. They returned them to the King family.

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