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In the book, Garrow briefly describes a serious relationship between King and a young white woman around the same age, named Betty. They had met at Crozer Theological Seminary, in Chester, Pennsylvania, at the time, where King was a divinity student from the age of 19 until 22, when he graduated in May Pius J. He never recovered. In a way, I never recovered from that quote. That endnote took me on two cross-country flights, spurred dozens of calls to wrong s and knocks on countless doors of people I thought might have known Betty. It worked. But Betty recalls that time, and the young King, with fondness anyway.
In our yearlong correspondence and one long meeting in JanuaryBetty, who recently passed away at the age of 89, told me the story of their relationship and just how close King came to walking away from his future plans for her.
The family lived in a five-bedroom, three-bathroom home on the Crozer campus, and Betty graduated with honors from Eddystone High School, located only two miles away. Betty spent many days in her youth walking over to the kitchen to check on her mother, lend an extra hand or just hang around and chat.
Despite the constant exposure to their world, Betty had no intention of becoming a divinity student. She graduated from high school in and went directly to Moore College of Art, right across the river from the University of Pennsylvania. This day was different, because Betty met someone new: a well-dressed, ambitious young man from Atlanta, Georgia, who was in his first year at the seminary and lived on the second floor of Old Main.
He had a smooth voice and a sly smile. But it continued. ML felt at ease with Betty. It was the enthusiasm with which he spoke on a wide range of topics that first attracted her. At first they discussed his time in the South and how different it was from the idealized culture within the seminary.
When asked if she had concerns about how they might be seen, Betty shrugs. I always had a tan and dark brown hair. Fewer than 40 miles from Crozer was the state of Maryland, where the first law against interracial marriage was enacted in ; the state would keep similar laws on its books for more than years. Even ina Gallup poll would report that an astounding 94 percent of white Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Members of the Crozer community, despite their liberalism, would have had trouble throwing their support behind such an arrangement.
Glares, scoffs and head shakes were inevitable. He was wonderful—a joy to be with and listen to. Telling his sister about Betty would have meant putting her in the unenviable position of withholding important information from her mother in every letter and phone call home. Betty would watch as ML and his friends played pool. And their private time together was no longer limited to Betty driving ML around Chester.
I was embarrassed to let him know I had never been to any of those places. In those days, who went to restaurants? ML would have known that dining at a predominantly white restaurant Interracial Chester Maryland chat a risky proposition, not only for himself but for Betty as well, but their relationship was a way for him to test the limits of northern culture.
ML could only trust one friend with his feelings toward Betty, and that was Mac. Pearl, who was black, measured Betty up. The first, of course, was the obvious one: He loved Betty. She listened to him, supported him and greatly admired his ambitions. He could see himself marrying her. It could serve as living proof of his belief in the idea of social integration. Whit, while in the same graduating class, was a decade older than ML and was already married, with one. ML needed guidance, and though he trusted Mac, it was time to turn to an older and more settled friend. Was Betty prepared to handle life as the spouse of a black southern minister?
Or was ML willing to give up on returning to the South? Could he be content to remain in the North and obtain a position in academia, contributing to the southern cause in some other way? In it, Bennett masks the quote with a tricky set of pronouns, so the source of it is unclear. But finally I had to tell her resolutely that my plans for the future did not include marriage to a white woman.
He was clearly old enough and mature enough to know even at the time that his decision on Betty would change the course of his life. And perhaps he even had a small idea of what his life would mean for the course of history. All rights reserved. Continue to article content. Share on Facebook Share on Twitter. More on Magazine.Interracial Chester Maryland chat
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