10 Places to Honor Martin Luther King Jr. in NYC

Martin Luther King Jr, Coretta Scott King, Mayor Wagner NYC Untapped CitiesMayor Robert F. Wagner shakes hands with Coretta Scott King. Photo via the Library of Congress

Coretta Scott King called MLK Day “a people’s holiday,” but it’s hard to resist honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who had some of his most important moments here in New York City.  Below we’ve summarized King’s relationship to New York in 10 vignettes.

1. Blumstein’s Department Store (1958)

Blumstein Department Store-Martin Luther King Jr-Stabbing-Harlem-125th Street-Vintage PhotoBlumstein Department Store on 125th Street. Image via MCNY

In 1958, King traveled to New York to promote his new book about the Montgomery bus boycott, Stride Towards Freedom: The Montgomery Story. The politics of his visit were messy, not only was Harlem in the midst of a competitive election, but King was met cooly by the NAACP, who now competed with him for donor dollars and found his civil disobedience strategy undignified. (Thurgood Marshall called him “a first-rate rabble rouser.”) Optics were further complicated when King’s people turned down a book signing at a store run by a black nationalist in favor of an upscale white department store, Blumstein’s.

On September 21, at Blumstein’s book signing, a mentally unstable woman stabbed King in the chest with a letter opener, lodging it between his heart and his lungs. King was rushed to Harlem Hospital and underwent a successful operation. It took him several weeks to recover at the hospital and then in Brooklyn, the operation leaving a cross-shaped scar on King’s chest, which he’d later point to with pride.

Dr. King Leaving Harlem Hospital. Screenshot via Harlem Hospital video.

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One Response
  1. fran boim Reply

    I am named after Fannie Blumstein. She was my great aunt. It is a real honor to be named after her. She was responsible for the great success of this store. She was one of the most successful woman in the country at that time. She also donated very large sums of money to hundreds of charities, temples, and hospitals. Please feel free to contact me. I have the original trowel from when this store was built, and numerous historical information. 516-484-2675

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