A Shore Connection to Martin Luther King, Jr.
Story by George W. Forman
Today is the day that the U.S. commemorates the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, which this year does fall on his actual birthday. During his fight for civil rights and equality, he made a number of visits to New Jersey. One of those was here at the Jersey Shore when he gave a speech at what was then Monmouth College in West Long Branch in October of 1966. His cause made a favorable impression on someone who was also involved in similar fights against injustice, a woman born here on the Shore.
Writer Dorothy Parker (born Dorothy Rothschild) was born in 1893 in the West End section of Long Branch, where her parents had a summer home. Calling her just a writer sells her short, as she was a critic, poet, lyricist, and an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter. And perhaps best known as a member of the “Algonquin Round Table” a witty group of actors, playwrights, critics, etc. that gathered at the Algonquin Hotel in New York in the 20’s. Ms. Parker had many notable quotes in her lifetime; my favorite was in a review of an on-stage performance. “This wasn’t just plain terrible, this was fancy terrible. This was terrible with raisins in it.” There is a Facebook page devoted to her, with many of her quotes (some of which are NSFW, but are still steeped in wit), and she is also a member of the New Jersey Hall of Fame.
Ms. Parker was involved in, and lent her name to a number of civil rights causes, some of which caused her to be listed as a Communist in 1950, and eventually placed on the Hollywood blacklist. In the 1960’s, she admired Martin Luther King and his work, and when she died in 1967, her estate was left to Dr. King. After he was assassinated, the estate was passed along to the NAACP, and Ms. Parker’s ashes are buried at the NAACP headquarters in Baltimore. So while today is about Dr. King, we take note of someone notable born in New Jersey, but not often mentioned, who believed in the fight for civil rights.