Ask 100 New Jersey residents who is Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and more than 90 will quickly reply, a civil rights leader.
Ask 100 New Jersey resident who is Peter McGuire and more than 90 will quickly reply, Peter who?
King and McGuire both made historic accomplishments. Both the Atlanta born King and the New York City born McGuire have connections to New Jersey. However, historic preservation authorities in New Jersey have treated King and McGuire as differently as black and white.
Peter J. McGuire is the late-1800s U.S. labor leader who many cite as the founder of Labor Day.
King, of course, is the iconic activist whose lauded influences extend beyond the United States. One example of King's global impact is the statute of King among the ten 20th-century religious figures whose importance produced their statue placement over the main door of London's majestic Westminster Abbey.
King and McGuire both have connections to the city of Camden, New Jersey.
McGuire spent the last years of his life in Camden. His grave is in Pennsauken, the small town located next to Camden. McGuire's accomplishments include founding the national carpenter's union, advocating for the eight-hour workday and co-founding the American Federation of Labor (AFL).
King plotted his first protest against racism in June 1950 at a house in Camden where he stayed occasionally with his close friend and fellow seminary student who lived at that house owned by his relatives.
A frequently overlooked fact about King is the birthplace of his society-changing activism was not Montgomery, Alabama where King's leadership of the legendary Montgomery Bus Boycott catapulted King to national prominence.
King's first protest took place in the Maple Shade, NJ, a small town located six miles from Camden and adjacent to Pennsauken five years before the launch of the Montgomery Bus Boycott. That first protest, at a cafe' where the white owner forced King and his three companions from the premises with a gun, produced the first lawsuit King filed against discrimination.
On January 17, 2018 authorities with New Jersey's Historic Preservation Office (HPO) placed Peter McGuire's Memorial and Gravesite in Pennsauken on the state's Historic Register. That 2018 HPO action occurred 194-days after receipt of an application for McGuire's registry placement.
In sharp contrast to McGuire's placement on NJ's Historic Register, HPO authorities have failed to either approve or reject an application for registry placement of the house in Camden where King plotted his first protest. That application for placement of 753 Walnut Street in Camden, filed in March 2015, has languished in HPO for 1,771-days as of the January 20, 2020 King National Holiday.
HPO's delay-fraught review of the registry application for King has lasted nearly five times longer than the 381-day-long Montgomery Bus Boycott.
In 2016 the HPO where the decision makers are all white rebuffed requests to place 753 on its Registry from Camden's Mayor, its Congressman and a Resolution calling for placement approved unanimously by the entire NJ State Legislature.
Ignoring these requests, the HPO embarked on a truly unprecedented action when it commissioned a $20,000 study to determine the historic validity of King's presence at the 753 house. The HPO never required a formal study for any of the other 51,000-plus items then on NJ's Historic Registry inclusive of nearly 100 Registry listings in the city of Camden.
That study conducted by an all-white research team from Stockton University concluded that King did not officially 'live' at 753 Walnut Street a point not in dispute. King, the persons who lived in 753 who confirmed King's plotting of that protest there plus award-winning biographers of King all stated King only 'stayed' occasionally at 753 during visits with his seminary friend.