Today is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday first observed in 1986. The late Dr. King was a pastor, humanitarian, activist and the leader of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. His words, actions and leadership shaped the world we live in today. Without him this country very well could have stay segregated suffering in it’s own inequality.
Although Dr. King is widely known for his leadership in the south some may not know that many of the grass roots of the Civil Rights Movement started right in Amenia, N.Y. Dr. King frequently visited the Troutbeck Estate in Amenia. Owned at the time by Amy and Joel Spingarn the intellectuals attracted liberals and innovators to their estate including Pan Africanist W.E.B Dubois. A friend of Joel’s DuBois even visited Troutbeck to hammer out the fundaments of the NAACP of which Joel was the second president of the civil rights organization.
Recently I got the opportunity to photograph a historical treasure at Troutbeck a letter written to Amy Spingarn from Dr. King sent in 1957 to the Spingarn’s home in New York City. The letter was written after Joel Spingarn had passed away. The beautifully written letter was to express appreciation to the Spingarns and all the board of directors of the NAACP for choosing Dr. King as the recipient of the Spingarn Medal of the year. In the letter King is extremely humbled by the Spingarn’s actions in the civil rights movement. A section of the letter reads, “ Let me express my appreciation to you for the great part that you and your late husband have played in the struggle for freedom and human dignity for all people. The names of the Spingarns will go down in history as symbol of the struggle for freedom and justice.”
It was a honor to photograph and hold the blown up copy of the letter which remains displayed in the library at Troutbeck. I had no idea that Amenia had such deep civil rights activism roots in this small rural town which I have frequently visit and cover for the newspaper.
Happy MLK Day everyone!