howard bennett

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Features, Greenwich Village, GVSHP, Harlem, History

How New Yorker Howard Bennet fought to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a national holiday

By Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation, Wed, April 4, 2018

Martin Luther King Jr. at the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C. via Wiki Commons

Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. This ended the life of one of the 20th century’s most revered and influential figures. It also began a 15-year campaign to make Dr. King’s birthday a national holiday — the first-ever honoring an African American. That successful quest began with and was spearheaded by a native son of Greenwich Village, Howard Bennett. Bennett was one of the last residents of a Greenwich Village community known as “Little Africa,” a predominantly African-American section of the neighborhood which was, for much of New York’s history through the 19th century, the largest and most important African-American community in the city. That neighborhood centered around present-day Minetta, Thompson, Cornelia, and Gay Streets.

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